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Low and no alcohol beer in the EU: status and legal challenges

European Union

Mar 17, 2023

There is currently an increasing demand for low and no alcohol beverages in the EU as consumers are looking for more options, taste but also lifestyle changes. This is especially the case for beer which is already a well-established market in most of the EU Member States. Low and no alcohol beer is estimated at EUR 7 billion which accounts for over 93% in value of the market for low and no alcohol beverages.

While there is no definition for “low alcohol / no alcohol beer” or even for an “alcoholic beverage” or “regular beer” at EU level, the Combined Nomenclature code provides a dedicated code for “non-alcoholic beer with an alcoholic strength (or ABV for alcohol by volume) lower than 0.5%”. Consequently, the labelling rules provided under the Food Information to Consumers (FIC) Regulation 1169/2011 apply, which impose the indication of the ABV on the labelling for beverages containing more than 1.2 % by volume of alcohol.

Currently, there are 16 EU Member States which have national legislation on low / no alcohol beer and such legislation varies significantly (e.g., there are different alcoholic content thresholds which trigger the application of different legal rules).

According to a study recently published by the European Commission on low/no alcohol beverages[1], the following main issues were identified:


  1. Lack of regulation allows for the sale in some Member States of “alcohol free” products which actually do contain alcohol. Adoption of harmonized rules to this end would therefore need to be reflected upon.
  2. Indication of the ABV content, namely whether such should be mandatory also for beverages below 1.2% ABV.


Although a harmonized and clearer categorization and description of low and no alcohol beverages would benefit consumers, ensuring the conditions thereof seems difficult to achieve in practice and would face other challenges (e.g., definition of low / no alcohol beverages by exclusion from a future “alcoholic beverage” definition would still not address the issue of the missing distinction between “no alcohol” and “low alcohol” beverages).


Therefore, further monitoring and assessment of the market is needed for a better understanding thereof as well as a better cooperation among all stakeholders. Additionally, the potential future amendment of the FIC Regulation would also need to be considered.

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