Diageo Plans Nutrition Labels for US Packaging

19 December 2003

The stateside arm of British alcoholic drinks giant Diageo will next year begin including nutrition information on its products' packaging.

Diageo North America plans to put labels on its bottles detailing the levels of alcohol, calories, carbohydrates, sugar, fat and other nutrients therein, as well as serving sizes. At present, spirits and wine makers are required to detail alcohol content alone, and beer firms need only give further information if they claim their beverage is low in fat or carbohydrates.

Diageo's decision comes amid mounting pressure on US drinks firms to disclose exactly what is in their products. Earlier this week, the National Consumers League and the Center for Science in the Public Interest led a coalition of over seventy consumer groups in calling on the government to require that all alcoholic drinks carry nutrition labels.

This coalition wants similar data on drinks packaging as appear on food products, with information on recommended serving sizes, number of servings, calories, alcohol levels and other ingredients. The consumer groups also want bottles to carry details of federal definitions of moderate alcohol consumption (one drink a day for women; two for men).

Despite this pressure, Diageo insists its decision is the result of customer research. "We think it's a good thing for our consumers," declared executive vp Guy L Smith. "It's something we know they want, and it's certainly consistent with what the coalition is calling for."

However, the CSPI argues that Diageo's voluntary initiative is a long way off the state-enforced scheme the consumer groups envision.

"This is not nearly what we're asking for," commented George A Hacker, director of the CSPI's alcohol policies project. "Diageo's insistence on voluntary labeling approaches is not responsive. It doesn't provide the standardization and consistency that is required for consumers to actually compare Brand A to Brand B as well as liquor with beer, unless of course all producers provide the same kind of information voluntarily in the same format."

Diageo must gain approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau before it can introduce the new labels.

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff