Nutritional Labels Are Coming to Wine and Spirits in the E.U.

Will the United States be far behind in offering more transparency on their bottles?

A phone reading a QR label on a bottle of wine. This standard, called U-Label, is coming to bottles in the EU this fall.
E.U. countries are adopting QR codes on wine/spirits bottles starting this fall
Martiapunts / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Basic nutritional labels are coming to wine and spirits in the European Union, which could set the stage for their introduction here in the United States sooner rather than later.

Interestingly, the move to present a “U-Label” on spirits bottles — which would feature information on ingredients, nutritional information, responsible drinking guidelines and sustainability available via a QR code printed on the bottle’s label, according to the trade publication — comes from a collaboration between SpiritsEUROPE and Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins (CEEV), which represent trade associations. So the push is coming more from the industry itself.

Currently in a pilot phase, the U-Label will be available for all spirits brands starting Nov. 1. The wine labeling, also arriving this fall, is part of mandatory requirements imposed by EU legislation, though additional information will be at the discretion of the brands (which seem eager to get points for offering transparency).

“This platform responds to consumer demand for more information. Empowering consumers to make healthy food choices, including as regards alcoholic beverages is one of the key objectives of the Commission. We will all need to work together towards a new and harmonized frame for the labelling of all alcoholic beverages” said Claire Bury, Deputy Director General in DG SANTE (food/health safety) at the European Commission.

“Today’s consumers expect more transparency on the products they consume, and digital labelling can respond to this demand by boosting the information that companies share with their consumers, without changing the appearance of the packaging,” added Jean-Marie Barillère, President of CEEV, in a press release.

Given that the technology is open to any brand inside or outside of the EU, and the technology makes it easy to alter for different languages or changing guidelines (since outside of the printed QR code, it’s all digital), this new standard might provide a framework for countries outside of Europe to impose similar and low-cost transparency measures. And liquor brands would probably love something closer to a global standard for bottle information, particularly if it simply involves adding a code that links to a site, rather than printing everything on the bottle itself.


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