Consumer needs and expectations should be the main drivers in defining alcohol labelling, a European Commission spokesperson told EURACTIV.com when asked about the effectiveness of online labelling, an option the alcohol industry wants to introduce.
The industry will this month present a self-regulatory proposal for the labelling of its products.
“Once we receive this proposal, the Commission will immediately start the assessment of the proposed self-regulatory approach. We will examine it in the light of Regulation on the provision of food information to consumers and of the Commission’s report,” the Commission spokesperson said.
“In accordance with its commitments towards Better Regulation, the EU executive will ensure the transparency of the assessment process of the industry’s proposal,” the official added.
Alcohol industry representatives will meet EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis on 12 March to present their proposal.
If the industry’s proposal does not satisfy the Commission, the executive will launch an impact assessment to review further available options, in line with Better Regulation principles.
EURACTIV has learned that “flexibility” will play a key role in the industry’s proposal, meaning that producers will have the room to decide whether to put information on the label and online simultaneously or just online.
The industry claims that online will provide consumers with more clarity on nutrition information as more space is available.
On the other hand, consumer NGOs say that providing information only online is not enough or is even misleading as not all consumers have access to the Internet.
“Around 35% of Western Europeans do not own a smartphone, which effectively precludes the use of QR codes,” Aleksandra Kaczmarek from the European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare) told EURACTIV last week.
Asked about the EU executive’s opinion on online labelling, the EU spokesperson replied: “The consumers’ needs and expectations should be the key drivers for the industry.”
Sources told EURACTIV that if online labelling is an option in the proposal then it will have to be analysed in the context of consumers’ needs and expectations.
According to a Commission report, EU consumers have shown “big interest” in receiving the same information on ingredients and nutritional values for alcoholic beverages as currently provided for other food and drink products.
However, consumer tendencies towards online labelling are not clear yet.
Speaking at a EURACTIV event on 24 January, Arunas Vinciunas, Andriukaitis’s chief of staff, was asked about the Commission’s stance on online labelling.
He answered by asking how many people in the audience rely on online information for the products they buy and very few people raised their hands.