Kiwi beer industry to voluntarily feature nutrition labels
As of today, some New Zealand beer producers will voluntarily begin printing nutritional information panels on their labels.
Unlike any other kind of food, alcohol is not legally required to feature nutritional information or ingredients lists on any products, under an exemption provided to the industry by the Food Standards Code.
The new labelling will help consumers understand what's in their beer by providing them with sugar content, preservatives, carbohydrate content, and total kilojoules/calories on the packaging.
"We are aware that beer has a bad rap and there's a lot of misconceptions about it," says Kevin Sinnott, director of external relations for the Brewer's Association. "Most people think beer is high in sugar. This is going to be a big surprise for most punters."
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Most beer is 99 per cent sugar free and doesn't contain any preservatives, he says.
Some of the first breweries to feature nutritional information on their products are Speight's, Steinlager, Mac's, Monteith's, Tui, DB Draught, Heineken, and Waikato Draught.
"All beers will be tested 10 times to ensure the nutritional information is correct," says Sinnott.
Ingredients' lists will not be printed on labelling, though the Brewer's Association says most beers contain just four ingredients: water, malted barley, hops, and yeast.
The beer industry's move heralds a forward-thinking approach that may stimulate the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to consider making nutritional labels mandatory for all alcohol on sale in New Zealand.
"I think the thing is for us is, we've recognised that consumers want this kind of information," says Sinnott.
According to market research, 75 per cent of people thought nutritional information should be on a bottle of beer.
In a Stuff poll of over 3000 readers last week, 83 per cent said they would like to know what they're consuming when it comes to alcohol.
The labelling will be added to bottles, cans, and cartons voluntarily by members of the Brewer's Association, including Lion and DB, which have both committed to the initiative.
"We're gradually going to see it introduced over the next six months, and expect around 80 per cent of Lion and DB beers to have nutrition labels by August," says Sinnott.
Though no independent breweries have committed to labelling yet, "we've reached out to the Brewer's Guild and Independent Liquor and hope that little and medium-sized breweries will get on board... it's an open invitation," Sinnott confirms.
The Brewers Association believes that the more brewers get involved, the better for Kiwi consumers.
"It gives people a better idea of what they're drinking, so they can make more informed choices," says Sinnott.
Under Lion and DB, more than 489 million bottles and cans of beer will hit the shelves in 2017 featuring the new labelling.
Will the wine and spirits industries follow the beer industry's lead? It's not an explicit goal for the Brewer's Association, but it could pave the way for a new standard in New Zealand.
"Obviously, it's up to [wine and spirits producers] to decide," says Sinnott. "We think this is a popular move. Consumers will like it. It may translate to others getting on board."