The Gin Guild has accused spirits producers who describe low- or non-alcohol products as gin of “freeloading” on the success of the category.

The guild says such products don’t meet the legal EU and UK requirement for gin to have a minimum abv of 37.5% and shouldn’t be using the word gin on their labelling.

Gin Guild director Nicholas Cook said: “The gin industry is concerned with brands of non-gin products which are deliberately misrepresenting, or describing by reference, their non-alcoholic or low-alcoholic products as gin.

“There is nothing wrong with making or selling non-gin products, but the gin industry cannot permit brands freeloading on the success of the category.

“They must market themselves honestly and ensure they do not deliberately or inadvertently mislead consumers.”

The Gin Guild said it had secured the withdrawal or remarketing of several low ABV drinks incorrectly described as gin and established a partnership with Buckinghamshire & Surrey Trading Standards to produce regulatory advice for the gin industry.

The two organisations have worked together to issue advice for businesses creating low- or zero-alcohol drinks intended to imitate gin.

Cook said: “The gin industry has diversified and grown over the last few years.

“This has led to a number of businesses working to differentiate themselves from one another.

“However, the line must not be crossed when it comes to accurately describing what is and what is not gin.

“There is absolutely no problem with non-alcoholic or low-alcoholic drinks being produced, but legally there is no such thing as a low-alcoholic or non-alcoholic gin.

“The Gin Guild will continue monitoring for non-compliant products to ensure the category is not misused. We urge all businesses seeking to enter the low or non-alcohol beverage market to read the new guidelines with care.”

As two examples of new alcohol-free products that do comply with the law by avoiding the term gin, Cook picked out Gordon’s 0.0% and Warner’s alcohol-free range.

“Gordon’s has been very careful in describing its new alcohol-free product,” says Cook, “and rightly hasn’t used the word gin as a descriptor.

“Like all serious players in the gin industry, they are very aware of the need to respect gin terminology and protect the heritage of the category, while being able to build on their established and distinctive branding.”

Warner’s founder Tom Warner said: “We have spent the last two years, with a considerable amount of back and forth in the process, creating our Botanic Garden Spirit 0% range. As an established gin producer entering this non-alcoholic space, we were very conscious about getting it right and not risking misleading the consumer in any way.

“We have always focused on being real and authentic, which means trying to take responsible decisions and make sure our packaging design and language is clear and could not possibly lead to any ambiguity or confusion.”