Drinks retailers need to recognise their obligations to describe products correctly, advises The Gin Guild, as it continues its campaign to challenge “deliberately misleading” labelling of drinks which are wrongly called gin.

Nicholas Cook, the Gin Guild’s Director General, explained:

“If it is not gin IN the bottle, brands should not put gin ON the bottle label and masquerade as gin, and retailers need to make sure that what they sell is correctly described and that consumers are not misled.”

Industry trade body, The Gin Guild, has already secured the withdrawal or remarketing of several low/no ABV drinks and so called ‘gin liqueurs’ incorrectly described as gin.

Under the Consumer Rights Act, retailers have obligations when they supply goods to consumers and products sold must match the description.

Nicholas Cook continued: “Retailers cannot hide behind the defence that they merely repeat the product description that the manufacturer provides.”

Two key areas that have manifested themselves as issues for the gin industry have been no and low alcohol options and gin liqueurs, launched on the back of gin, but which are NOT gin.

The Gin Guild provides Assured Advice on its website to assist and clarify labelling for these areas. The advice is provided via the Guild’s Primary Authority Partnership with Buckinghamshire & Surrey Trading Standards.

Nicholas Cook urges brands and retailers to look at the guidance now, in advance of planning for products they intend to market for Christmas 2021, to ensure that products are correctly described. This would ensure that liqueur style products, often seasonally influenced and targeted for Christmas or Valentine’s Day sales and wrongly marketed as ‘gin’, are correctly described.

Mr Cook said:

“It is surprising how many producers of products purporting to be ‘gin’, or be like ‘gin’, which are not gin, having first come up with an idea, and then funded the product, production, and marketing, either fail to do their homework and research and then, whether, through ignorance or deliberate act, launch and market a product in breach of the regulations.

“Withdrawing product and rebranding is a costly exercise. It can at best affect business reputation and standing and at worst can be terminal.

“Recent examples of shameless attempts to piggy-back on the good name and popularity of gin, and wholly unacceptable product branding, were Belvoir’s ‘Alcohol Free Gin & Tonic’, with not a trace or linkage to gin, more realistically a ‘juniper cordial’, and the launch name for the 1.2% ABV juniper spirit previously known as ‘CleanGin’, which failed to meet the required legal definitions required to be described as ‘gin’.

“Both brands were misleading to consumers. The former ‘CleanGin’, having launched wrongfully identifying with and clutching the coattails of gin, had to undergo an expensive rebrand, and abandon the original brand-name.

“Having solely identified the product with gin, in breach of the relevant category regulations, it then had little to offer as a unique marketing alternative and, causing further damage to the brand, notwithstanding on-going multiple actions and complaints, chose to reference the original brand in marketing.”

Help, guidance and explanation for drinks producers and retailers on the wider gin category, particularly those in retail who are responsible for ensuring that correct product descriptions are provided to their customers, is provided on the Gin Guild’s website. This also offers a wide-ranging summary to the complex area of gin categorization and production.

“Our summary is intended to provide an overview of how the regulations affect gin, the various categories of gin, the varied production processes and differences, and the key essentials necessary to ensure category compliance. The category is complex and to ensure compliance, homework is required,” said Mr Cook.

With an increasing number of challenges and challengers targeting the gin industry year on year, and new iterations of gin, some imaginative, and some arguably verging on the edge of the category envelope, and with consumer interest in the category still very much in the ascendancy, the Gin Guild continues to actively address deliberately misleading descriptors deployed by some brands and the deception danger to consumers.

Photo: Belvoir’s alcohol-free product which is not gin 


The relevant law is Regulation (EC) No 2019/787 of the European Parliament, which was preceded by a similar 2008 version. It remains in force in the UK, post Brexit.

The regulations have proved successful in regulating the spirit drinks sector. The regulations state that rules applicable to spirit drinks should contribute to attaining a high level of consumer protection, removing information asymmetry, preventing deceptive practices and attaining market transparency and fair competition.

The regulations lay down the legal names to be used for spirit drinks to ensure that such legal names are used in a harmonized manner throughout the EU and to safeguard the transparency of information to consumers.

The regulations reflect the importance and complexity of the spirit drinks sector, and the need to lay down specific rules on the description, presentation and labelling of spirit drinks, in particular as regards the use of legal names, geographical indications, compound terms, and allusions in the description, presentation and labelling.

The Gin Guild, a gin industry body, represents the principal gin producers and exporters in the UK (as well as many international brands). It was set up in 2012 to protect and promote the gin industry. It is the umbrella group for gin, and represents the owners of well over 90% of UK gin sales by volume.

With a good spread of brand owing members, both large and small, and an ear to the groundswell and opinion of both gin consumers and those in the wider gin industry, the Guild is well placed to action solutions and to enable liaison with those members.

The Gin Guild and its members have absolutely no problem with adult orientated non-alcoholic/low alcoholic drink brands being produced. This is a growing area and one many liquor brands will seek to dip a toe into alongside their more well-known and alcoholic options.

There is clearly interest and demand from consumers for such products. Non-alcoholic beverages should, of course, be available to adults as alternatives to alcohol.  Such products should however be clearly identified and branded without wordplay or reference to existing defined spirit categories.

Any new category or new brand should make its own way to market, not seek to build on or abuse established regulated spirit terminology.

The Guild’s key message is simple – there is no such thing as ‘Non-alcoholic gin’, just as there is no such thing as ‘Non-alcoholic whisky’. Gin is a defined and regulated term protected under EU and UK Regulation and in particular requires a minimum ABV of 37.5%.

Beverage brands bringing new products to market that are not gin should not represent a product as being gin when it is not. This is illegal and misleading customers.

With over 83 million bottles of gin being sold in the UK annually – worth around £2.6 billion – this is a key category and one to be protected.

  • The Gin Guild is a spirit industry member funded body, supported by its members, including the four major gin distilling companies, Bacardi, Diageo, William Grant and Sons and Chivas Brothers, and representing the gin industry as a whole. It aims to promote the distilled gin category across the globe, enhancing its image and widening its appeal to worldwide consumers. It is the natural home of Gin innovation, including new start-ups and craft distillers and craft distilled gin. Gin Guild members are international and include those from the UK, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, India, Italy, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Norway, The Czech Republic, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and the USA.
  • The Gin Guild brings together gin distillers and industry leaders involved in the production, promotion, distribution and consumption of gin. It promotes and encourages commitment to excellence in gin distillation and industry custodianship of the spirit category.
  • The Guild is an industry association. It does not seek to promote any particular branded product or products but aims to bring the widest range of products and their producers and those associated in the wider industry, together in order to provide a valued forum for all those involved in gin production, sales, marketing and distribution.