Manchester-based Drynks Unlimited has launched a national campaign calling for more transparency in the alcohol-free and low-alcohol drinks market.

It says that while UK government guidelines currently state that in order to be classified as alcohol-free a beverage must contain no more than 0.05% alcohol by volume, WSTA (Wine and Spirit Trade Association) recommendations could alter that rule and prove damaging for the industry as well as causing consumer confusion.

Richard Clark, Drynks Unlimited’s founder and managing director, said: “Consumers want to have to safe fun this Christmas, despite covid-19. And they can have fun whether it’s with soft drinks, alcohol-free, or non-alcoholic drinks — there are great tasting options across all three areas.

“But we need to let consumers know what they are drinking, through legislation and guidelines. Is the industry up for the challenge? Drynks Unlimited with its Smashed brands is willing to talk and work with other brands to help make this happen.”

Drynks Unlimited, which produces the Smashed range of alcohol-free beers and ciders, says some brands are passing their products off as ciders, wines, and spirits, even though they’ve never been through the brewing, fermentation, or distillation process. Others, it claims, misleadingly lay claim to being alcohol-free when they aren’t.

Richard said: “A beverage containing more than 0.05% ABV is not classified as alcohol-free and should not be labelled as such. But we are aware that the WSTA is in discussions with UK governing health bodies to alter the law and allow 0.5% ABV drinks to be labelled as alcohol-free. We think this could seriously undermine the great strides that have been taken by many British manufacturers and brewers to produce outstanding, truly alcohol-free drinks.”

He added: “Great alcohol-free beers or ciders leave you in no doubt that they are real beer or real cider, just without the alcohol. Whilst there are some very good tasting no- and low-alcohol beers made using methods such as reverse osmosis and stunted fermentation, we believe that this ‘real’ taste can best be achieved through a complete brewing, fermentation, and distillation process, where the original alcohol is then reduced and removed from the drink.

“This is why we are currently the only brewer in the UK to use a cool vacuum distillation process, whereby we start with real premium craft alcoholic beer and cider and gently remove the alcohol whilst retaining the characteristics and flavour of the original drink.

“But some low-alcohol drinks across cider, wine, and spirit categories were never originally created as alcoholic beverages, instead being produced as imitations using alcohol flavourings; and yet they are labelled as ciders, wines or spirits.”

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