Empowering Consumers

By Donna Ahern
Empowering Consumers

Patricia Callan, director of Drinks Ireland explains why the federation has signed up to the European-wide Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) relating to the spirits sector

The Irish drinks sector is very proud of the products we make and we want to further empower our consumers.

Over the past few years there has been huge growth in the sector, driven by innovation and diversity.

We are world leaders at creating quality products, not just for satisfied Irish customers, but also for customers around the world, in over 140 markets.

That is why Drinks Ireland the representative body for drinks producers and distributors in Ireland, was one of seven trade associations to sign a European-wide Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the European Commission in relation to the spirits sector that will provide consumers with clear information about the ingredients and energy values in their products.


Spirits and beer labelling

This will see one quarter of spirits bottles placed on the EU market carrying energy values by next year, with additional ingredient information available either on or off label. This will rise to two thirds by 2022.

The MoU establishes best practices and affirms commitments to implement them.

The signatories will measure the effectiveness of the MoU by reporting their efforts to apply their commitments, and by monitoring the impact of the MoU on the market. Drinks Ireland will be responsible for reporting from the Irish market.

In a similar vein as the spirits MoU, Drinks ireland has also committed to sign a similar MoU on beer with the European Commission on 5 September. It also sets out ambitious targets, and by 2022 all beer labels will provide ingredient and energy information.


Health-conscious drinkers

This additional information is hugely important for health-conscious drinkers.

We live in a time where consumers increasingly want to be better informed about what they eat and drink, so they can make healthier choices.

This commitment will see calorie information displayed on products, further empowering people to make informed and responsible choices about what they drink and how much they drink.

This is part of a whole suite of changes in consumer behaviour in recent years.


Consumers are increasingly seeking quality over quantity when it comes to drinking, choosing to drink ‘better’ over ‘more’, a trend we very much welcome. It is evidenced by continued growth in premium, super-premium and craft categories.

For example, the Irish Cider Association, part of Drinks Ireland, launched its Irish Cider Market Report last month which found that these very trends are driving growth in that sector. We have also seen similar developments across beer and spirits.

There has also been a shift to reduced consumption of alcohol, particularly among young adults.

In Ireland, alcohol consumption per adult has fallen by 23.2% since 2001 (CSO/Revenue Commissioner data).

As a result, many brands are creating low and alcohol-free alternatives. Various markets throughout Europe have seen a significant increase in the sale of non-alcoholic beers, including a 33% sales increase in the Netherlands and an 80% sales increase in Poland last year.


A collaborative approach

So, with the above trends in mind, naturally, a move towards more information, in particular calorie information on beer and spirits, is positive and empowering for consumers. Significant also is the fact that these commitments are being rolled out on an EU-wide level, meaning consumers will be offered cohesive information in different markets.

The move towards signing both MoUs follows significant engagement between industry and the European Commission, demonstrating the benefits of a collaborative approach between industry and Government.

We believe that this approach at EU level is the best way to ensure that consumers get the information they need in the most effective and efficient way.

It is the latest example of the industry engaging with legislators to initiate progressive measures that are mutually beneficial to both the consumer and the sector.

We are glad that EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis warmly welcomed this initiative. We want to continue to work with the Commission to monitor the effective implementation and analyse our progress together. Positive change can truly be delivered when we all work together.

Ahead of the curve

It should also be noted that many Irish and EU drinks producers have already rolled out ingredients and energy labelling to highlight the quality of their produce.

For example, across Europe, 60% of beers sold already have calorie information, while 85% carry an ingredients list.

We are eager to further build trust with consumers and help governments and regulators to meet their public health objectives.

Ireland’s drinks industry is one of the country’s most exciting and dynamic sectors, with innovation at its core.

This innovation is all about meeting changing consumer demands. Giving consumers with information they require in an effective and appropriate manner helps both the industry and consumers.

The industry will continue to innovate in tandem with changing consumer demands, putting consumers at the heart of the sector’s success. And that’s something we can all toast.

 © 2019 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Click sign-up to subscribe to Checkout.


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