Beer is the driving force behind the spike in the popularity of low and no alcohol alternatives – but more must be done to bring labelling in line with Europe.

That's the view of British Beer & Pub Association chief Brigid Simmonds, who was reacting to a Portman Group survey which found 24 per cent of drinkers have switched to low alcohol alternatives or would consider doing so in the next six months.

She said: "The boom in the popularity of low and no alcohol products, as shown by the Portman Group's survey, is very encouraging. With significant investment and innovation in low and no alcohol beers by UK brewers, beer has been a key part of this growth.

"The skill and craft needed to brew no and low alcohol beers is no different to normal strength beers, meaning they taste great and quality is not compromised."

However, she called on the government to help the industry promote such products by bringing "the guidance on alcohol descriptors in line with Europe."

The current definition of alcohol free beer in the UK is 0.05 per cent ABV, compared 0.5 per cent ABV in Europe. This means that a beer brewed in Europe at 0.5 per cent can be sold in the UK as alcohol-free, but UK brewers brewing at the same strength must label products differently.

In November the Department of Health ruled there would be no changes to descriptors for no and low alcohol products.
Simmonds added: "There is growing interest in moderate alcohol consumption as the survey by the Portman Group shows and we need everyone working together to make it easier for consumers to understand what is on offer and create real choice."