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Wine industry should take initiative on calorie labelling, says WSTA chief

Published:  25 November, 2014

The wine industry needs to prepare itself for adding calorie labels to wine bottles, as the battle against obesity continues, warned Wine & Spirit Trade Association chief Miles Beale.

Miles BealeWSTA chief Miles Beale believes the wine industry needs to prepare for calorie labellingGiven the obesity battle currently ongoing in the UK and elsewhere, Beale said it would ‘behove’ the industry to come up with a voluntary proposal on energy labelling for wine.

Speaking to on the topic of regulation in the industry at the Wine Vision conference in London last week, Beale said "it would behove the industry to come up with a proposal that doesn't compromise the industry" but would show it to be proactive.

"One example to think of for the future is obesity. It's impossible to see how it won't be a requirement for all foodstuffs [and wine], to have energy labelling," he said. He also reasoned that it was "sensible to conclude" that such a proposal would include calorie information.

According to Beale, it makes sense to do this at a European level, and ensure that producers do not have to label every single ingredient.

Mike Veseth, who writes the Wine Economist blog, said he would be concerned about providing the information and it being "very uniform". But he admitted: "Some producers have listed everything in the spirit of transparency - being proactive is a good idea."

Adrian Bridge, chief executive of the Fladgate Partnership questioned whether the information could be included on a QR code, rather than taking up valuable space on the label. But Beale said this would be a "tough sell to government".

Over 70% of regulations impinging on the wine industry in the UK is created in Brussels, Beale said, adding that the UK is "far stronger" than elsewhere when it comes to self-regulation. "Members are pushed to do more under the threat of government regulation. In Brussels they're amazed at what we do voluntarily," Beale says.

"The UK has done a lot beyond regulation," Beale said, adding that it is about "keeping ahead of regulation".

Jean-Guillaume Prats, president and chief executive of Moët Hennessy Estates & Wines, warned that if the industry was "not unified or aligned - you're left in the middle of nowhere".

David Cox, chief executive of the Benevolent drinks trade charity questioned whether alcohol could face similar sanctions to tobacco and be forced to sell in plain packaging. But Beale said that given "there's a reasonable trading record of using consumer choice to drive the healthier option", such a measure was unlikely.

Given wine's special status "at the centre of the European community" as an agricultural product that's "different and special", it's "very easy to protect the status quo in Brussels", Beale added.

In reference to some of the main regulatory issues in the USA, Sandra Taylor of Sustainable Business International, said the legalisation of marijuana in some states would result "in a relaxation of the rules around alcohol".