The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has said allowing beer of less than 0.5% abv to be labelled as ‘alcohol-free’ would bring it in line with the EU and America, address the barriers to trade and provide clarity for consumers.

The announcement was part of SIBA’s response to the government’s consultation on changes to the no and low alcohol labelling descriptors, which was announced in September and closed last week.

The trade organisation also warned that other labelling amendments being considered could “add further complexity and make it more difficult for small independent breweries to enter the market for no and low beer”.

“The NoLo sector has increased year on year with our latest SIBA/YouGov poll showing that 18% of beer drinkers are consuming low alcohol beer,” said Andy Slee, SIBA CEO. “For small independent breweries, NoLo is a fledgling sector and our members are increasingly looking to add new innovative low alcohol beers to their range but are hindered by confusing labelling guidance and the barriers to accessing the market. The health minister has the chance to provide clarity and address the inconsistencies and give a real boost to our independent breweries looking to response to increase consumer demand for tasty and interesting low alcohol beers.”

Currently, under the Department for Health and Social Care’s guidance for low alcohol products, beer has to contain no more than 0.05% abv to be consider ‘alcohol-free’, but breweries in other countries including the United States and Germany, can use the term on products below 0.5%, SIBA said.

The government is also considering other labelling changes as part of the consultation including the strength on the front of the label along with age restrictions and the Chief Medical Officer’s low risk drinking guidelines.

In its consultation response SIBA has called for the low alcohol descriptors to become:

  • Low alcohol – product must be 1.2% abv or below (no change to current)
  • Non-alcoholic – be applicable to any products below 0.5% abv
  • Alcohol free – also be applicable to any products below 0.5% abv
  • De-alcoholised – applied to products that have undergone that specific process