Calorie content not needed on labels, says trade body

20 May, 2015

Detailing calorie content on labels of beers, wines and spirits is a 20th century solution to a 21st century obesity problem, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

Smirnoff supplier Diageo made headlines earlier this year when it pledged to include calorie content on its labels, and the WSTA called the move are "another positive sign that the alcohol industry is committed to improving consumer awareness and providing relevant information where possible". 

But the trade body said mandatory labelling is not the only way forward as people get their information in many different way, and argued that online information might be the most effective way for them to learn about the calorie content in alcoholic drinks.

It said it will publish the typical number of calories per alcoholic drink on its website as a resource for members and consumers.

Chief executive Miles Beale said there was confusion over whether calorie counts should be per unit, per serving or per drink, and said a clear online chart would be a strong way of communicating all the necessary information.

He said:  “Politicians talk about the challenge of the obesity epidemic, so this industry will have to deal with the issue of calorie content on its products.

“The idea of putting calorie information on a bottle is a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem. Calorie content in alcohol should be available online, so the WSTA has made it available on its website.

“There is nothing to be concerned about, but it shows the industry is prepared to publish this sort of information. It makes sense to provide it online rather than on the bottle.

“If the industry is doing it voluntarily there’s no need for government to make it mandatory.”

Beale believes a Conservative majority was by far the best general election outcome the drinks industry could have hoped for and said that now is the time to “engage with the new government”. He has since written to six cabinet ministers asking for a meeting.

“I don’t expect it to happen any time soon, but I wanted to explain who we are and what we want to achieve,” he said

“The wine and spirit industry is worth nearly £45 billion a year. That’s £15 billion in tax revenue. It supports nearly 600,000 jobs. We are extremely hard to ignore.

“We can create jobs and help economic recovery, but we can only do that through the right conditions and by removing red tape.  

“There is cause for optimism. There is a huge amount of business-friendly language in the Conservative manifesto. A Conservative government was by far the best outcome of the general election for the drinks industry.”

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