Calorie reporting on beer labels: Is it necessary?

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Calorie reporting on beer labels: Is it necessary?


What has already established itself in many European breweries is now being introduced gradually in Germany – a voluntary labelling commitment, on the recommendation of the German brewing associations: Reporting the calorific value on all beer labels, including beer beverage mixes. Nutritionist and beer sommelier Sandra Ganzenmüller comments on the national endeavour to provide comprehensive consumer information.

In many European countries, consumers are informed about calorie content, among other things, on beer labels. In Germany, however, beer drinkers still look in vain for this information, though most other products carry it. This is about to change, according to the two leading German brewing industry associations as of November 2018.

The Deutsche Brauer-Bund and the Verband der Privaten Brauereien Deutschland have recommended to their member breweries that all beers and mixed beer beverages include calorific value, i.e. kilocalories and joules, on their labels. There is no legal obligation yet, and it’s still just a recommendation at this point. Any member of the German brewing industry who wants to join the initiative can take their time and first use up their stock of printed labels and think about redesigning the labels in peace.

Transparency regarding ingredients used at German breweries has always been important for the sector. The raw brewing materials allowed to be used in accordance with the German Purity Law (the famous Rheinheitsgebot) are stated briefly, and the allergens present in the beer are highlighted in bold (malt). Incidentally, German brewers have long been at the forefront among alcoholic drinks producers: wine drinkers and whiskey connoisseurs are rarely as informed. So, why calories? Why not? In my opinion, it’s long overdue, especially because many consumers are not aware that a Pils, when compared to wine, milk or freshly squeezed orange juice performs quite well when it comes calorific content. The Insa survey institute gathered this knowledge in the fall of 2018. At that time, 42 percent of consumers incorrectly estimated a higher calorie content for Pils.

So the time has come to shed light on the matter, in my opinion. Incidentally, either we do this voluntarily or just wait until the government prescribes it to bring German beer brewers in line with EU norms. The incumbent grand coalition in government in Germany wants to close the gap in food labelling – and calorie reporting on labels of alcoholic beverages is certainly such a gap. Isn’t it better, then, to volunteer?

Either way, I personally look forward to having well-informed consumers out there who read the fine print on labels even more consistently than they do now. Incidentally, all non-alcoholic beers already include this information – by law – on their labels. Perhaps, as a nutritionist and beer sommelier, I can avoid being asked to explain the beer belly myth in the future?

About the author

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Sandra Ganzenmüller, biersommelière, is with her PR-agency kommunikation.pur responsible for clients in the field of food, beverages & lifestyle, and member of the jury of the European Beer Star, the World Beer Cup (USA), the Brussels Beer Challenge as well as serveral other. She is press officer of the association of beersommeliers, has written books about beer and was the chief editor of the special interest magazine bier.pur Germany for some years.