What’s in a beer? The road ahead for consumers’ right to know

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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Beer drinkers like clear, consistent, honest communication. That’s why Europe’s brewers have voluntarily committed to providing consumers with the list of ingredients and nutrition information in full accordance with EU law. The decision has been welcomed by policymakers and NGOs alike, writes Pierre-Olivier Bergeron.

Pierre-Olivier Bergeron is the secretary-general of The Brewers of Europe. 

Beer is a fermented drink, with ingredients rooted in nature that, when enjoyed in moderation, can be part of a balanced lifestyle. We are committed to its responsible consumption and believe everyone deserves to receive understandable, comparable and accurate information on what they are drinking.

For brewers, this voluntary commitment is essential to improve consumer knowledge of a beer’s ingredients and nutritional content and its place within anyone’s diet. And as we celebrate the third anniversary of our voluntary commitment, we are more determined than ever to keep our promises.

Walking the talk

When we reported on our latest progress earlier this year, Commissioner Andriukaitis said: “I appreciate the rigour and ambition with which The Brewers of Europe and the beer sector have been committed to providing information to consumers. I can only encourage the brewers to continue the good work and to keep me informed on progress.”

We listened and I am proud to announce that we are stepping up our commitment even further. This week we announced that by end 2018, 3 out of 4 beers will label ingredients and 1 out of 2 beers will label calorie information per 100ml, the legal reference volume for all drinks, alcoholic or not.

But that’s not all. We also just issued a new recommendation to all breweries to list ingredients and energy values on the labels of pre-pack containers, in full conformity with the rules already laid down in the EU’s Food Information to Consumers Regulation (EU) 1169/2011.

For Monique Goyens, Director General of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), “it is crucial that nutritional information and ingredients listings are provided for the consumer on the label of alcoholic products and in conformance with the Food Information to Consumers Regulation (1169/2011).”

The decision to provide this information is just one of the +100 responsibility commitments made by Europe’s brewers under the Beer Pledge. This pledge is our promise to support EU member states in reducing alcohol-related harm by taking concerted and measurable actions.

Our consumer information commitment builds on decades of brewer-supported actions against alcohol misuse and the beer sector’s position as the leading contributor of voluntary commitments to the EU Alcohol and Health Forum.

The road ahead

We believe that by fulfilling our consumer information commitment, Europe’s brewing sector is providing the right template and meeting expectations.

The Brewers of Europe have also been developing toolkits for those smaller brewers to simplify understanding of the EU legislation, help them understand the commitment, and explain how nutrition values can be calculated and presented. Small businesses exist across the food and drinks industry.

There are now estimated to be around 8,500 breweries across the European Union, from microbreweries and brewpubs producing beer solely for their local communities, to major regional players and larger breweries producing beer for export across the world. With a diverse range of styles, flavours, strengths, and serving sizes, there truly is a beer out there for everyone.

As our sector’s renaissance continues, 20 new breweries open every week in Europe, there is no better time for The Brewers of Europe to renew our consumer information commitment.

We will continue to lead the way by supporting the implementation by brewers through the dissemination of guidance tools and utilizing detailed monitoring templates to report annually.

We believe in empowering people with the facts to make informed decisions. That’s why we’ve been voluntarily putting what’s inside our beers on the outside since 2015. Across the 8,500 breweries in the EU, we are working hard to make this a reality.


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