Massachusetts Beverage Business



In a calorie-conscious world, labels are everything. As a culture we eagerly read package labels telling us how much fat this frozen pizza has or how much sodium those chips have. So it would stand to reason that the drinking masses would embrace knowing how many calories are in their cocktail of choice. Ironically, that’s not the case – according to a report from market research firm Mintel, two-thirds of consumers have no interest in knowing. This appears to contradict support in the drinks industry for the use of calorie-content labeling ahead of, or in addition to, units as a way of persuading consumers to drink more sensibly. Mintel found 35% of consumers have no interest in alcohol calorie content and a further 31% would rather not know because they think it will impact on their enjoyment of drinking. Only one in five admit it could influence their choice. The study calls into question the wisdom of marketing and packaging which has focused on calories. Paul Hegarty, Drinkaware’s industry relationship manager, said recently that calorie content was “far more compelling” than units in helping consumers understand alcoholic content, although he felt units still had a major part to play. Ben Perkins, Mintel’s head of food and drink research and author of the report said: “Calorie labeling is supposed to be the next big thing. We spoke to a lot of people in the industry and although some seem to think it will be really important, it isn’t at the moment. But it might be that as soon as companies start putting it on labels it starts to change attitudes.” Perkins said there was generally a contradiction between consumers feeling there was too much “clutter” on labels and not enough for them to clearly understand the alcoholic content and its possible impacts. He said: “Given a visual prompt, people often say they’ve seen sensible drinking information but that doesn’t always mean they understand it. The challenge for producers is to make as much information available as simply as possible, but that’s difficult when one in five people say they don’t even look at the labeling.” For many consumers it comes down to an issue of too much information. People enjoy their one or two drinks – many see them as a treat or small luxury. Finding out that the beer you’re about to drink has 35O calories, or that the Mojito you’ve been looking forward to has 35 grams of sugar in it, kills the buzz.

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