Attitudes to Alcohol Labelling


Portman Group has published new alcohol labelling research, carried out by Britain Thinks and jointly commissioned with the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH). A link to the report can be found here. The original scope of the collaboration between Portman Group and the RSPH was to research on alcohol related health information, to inform the industry’s self-regulatory process.

The research found that the British public prioritise clear factual product information over health information and advice on alcohol labels when it comes to choosing what to drink. As a nation, we are most familiar with ABV (or alcohol by volume) with 75 per cent of the public naming ABV as being part of an alcohol label compared to 29 per cent who think in terms of units. The vast majority (70 per cent) feel the balance between product information and health-related information, such as units and pregnancy warnings, is about right.  When it comes to priority information, 81 per cent say it is important to include ABV and 68 per cent want container unit content. However, there is more that can be done to make labels clearer and less cluttered.

In 2017 Portman Group, together with leading sector trade associations, published voluntary guidance for drinks producers on communicating health related information. The BritainThinks and Populus polling helped to inform that guidance.

The research was commissioned and funded jointly by the Portman Group and RSPH, and conducted by BritainThinks with polling led by Populus Data Solutions.

Commenting on the research findings, John Timothy, Portman Group Chief Executive said:

“In preparing the new voluntary guidance for producers, it was important for us to understand how consumers interact with the products they buy.  This excellent research from BritainThinks provides clarity and insight on what matters to shoppers. It shows us that first and foremost people use labels to get factual information on the product in hand – in the vast majority of cases, they are not looking for or thinking about health advice. In a digital age we need to be finding smarter ways to communicate complex multi-faceted health and lifestyle information that is personalised and tailored to people’s individual lifestyles and preferences. While it is hugely important that consumers are able to access health-related advice and guidance, we need to remember that labels are simply one channel through which to deliver that.”

Commenting on the research findings Deborah Mattinson, Founding Partner of BritainThinks said:

“BritainThinks is delighted to have worked with the Portman Group and the Royal Society of Public Health on this fascinating piece of work.  The research shows that, whilst there is not currently spontaneous appetite from the public for changes to alcohol labelling, there are concerns about the size and positioning of some information.  To be most helpful to the public, key information should be placed on the front of the bottle – but there is careful balance to be struck between health information and branding, with the latter the key factor driving purchasing decisions.”

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