All you need to know about the EU rules and labeling on Spirit drinks in 2021.

On 25 May 2021, the provisions on production and labeling will be repealed and replaced by those laid down in EU regulation 787/2019.

As the EU frames it: “the definition, description, presentation and labeling of spirit drinks, the use of the names of spirit drinks in the presentation and labelling of other foodstuffs, the protection of geographical indications for spirit drinks, the use of ethyl alcohol and distillates of agricultural origin in alcoholic beverages”

A good overview on the process and the do’s and dont’s for labeling provisions can be found in the following working document of the EU Committee for Spirit Drinks (December 2019). It contains all the examples of permitted and forbidden labeling for the spirit drink sector. For a complete timeline and additional papers, please click here.

Of course – potential small amendments are upcoming in the coming months. Most notably on t he definition of and conditions of use for ‘allusions’ to spirit drinks’ names and geographical indications. See draft regulation here.  

For instance for Rum, the new regulations could be drastic (both good and bad) for some producers:

  • EU to curb the number of over-sugared rums on the market by introducing tougher sugar measures.
  • The EU adding geographical indications to the spirit.

And what to expect beyond 2021?

Several stakeholder groups and industry associations in Europe are proposing more transparency and criteria to labeling requirements and alcohol promotion. Among the proposals is mandatory labeling of ingredients and nutrient content on alcoholic beverages by the end of 2022. Health warnings on labels should follow by the end of 2023.

EU Spirits: In their Annex to the self-regulatory proposal, the spirits sector commits to ensuring that, by the end of 2022, information is available to consumers on the nutrition and ingredients of all spirits sold in the EU. The sector believes that the most meaningful way to provide information on the energy content of spirit drink labels is per serving size. See the consumer responsible drinking EU site for more information. Currently 1 in every 4 bottle meets the requirements  to provide energy information on their label. Furthermore digital consumer information tools is growing (e.g. QR code link to online information).

Following the industry self-regulatory proposal, and as a result of a 14-month dialogue with the Commission, the representatives of the spirits industry signed a memorandum of understanding in June 2019, according to which spirits producers will voluntarily start to roll out energy information on-label, combined with comprehensive ingredients and nutritional information online. Calorie information would be provided per 100 ml and per serving size.
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Looking way ahead – though definitely a topic that will have huge impact on the spirits and wine industry is the development of a so-called green ‘due diligence’ in (commodity) supply chains. Lawmakers in the European Parliament passed a resolution to tackle environmental and human rights issues in the supply chains of EU businesses in March 2021.

In summary, for an overview on what / which criteria apply with the EU regulation787/2019 and more, download the summary overview or see for further details the links below:

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