The Gin Guild continues to act to have misleading products removed from sale for ‘freeloading’ on the current success of the gin category. This is an issue for both brands and the retailers who sell the products.
Recent examples of non-compliant and misrepresented drinks include WKD’s Pink Gin Flavour, and Nature’s Distillery ‘Ultra Low Alcohol Gin Spirit.’ Neither product complies with the gin category regulations and cannot, by law, be described as gin.
The Gin Guild, whose principal aim is to protect and promote the gin category, has requested that the Trading Standards bodies for the area of each brand take steps to enforce the regulations, to ensure that consumers are protected from being misled and that the legal category definition is preserved.
The Gin Guild is supported by its Primary Authority partnership with Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards which provides regulatory advice for Guild members of the gin industry.
Nicholas Cook, Director General of The Gin Guild, explained:
The dictionary definition of ‘wicked’ is ‘evil or morally wrong’.
Whilst not claiming that some producers are evil, The Gin Guild certainly believes there are brands who are morally and legally wrong in using ‘Gin’ as a descriptor for non-gin beverages, in breach of the regulated definition, and who are misrepresenting their products to the detriment of the gin industry and consumers.
“One of The Gin Guild’s roles is to defend the gin category from interlopers seeking to piggyback on the protected category definition.
“Gin is a protected category under EU and UK law and, amongst other requirements must be not less than 37.5% ABV. The gin industry is concerned with brands of non-gin products which are deliberately misrepresenting, or describing by reference, their non-alcoholic or low-alcoholic products as ‘gin’.
“There is nothing wrong with making or selling non-gin products, but the gin industry cannot permit brands which are deliberately misrepresenting, or describing by reference, their non-alcoholic or low-alcoholic products as ‘gin’ so as to freeload on the success of the category. They must market themselves honestly and ensure they do not deliberately or inadvertently mislead consumers.”
The Gin Guild is a not-for-profit international gin industry body and has seen this issue repeatedly crop up, with attempts by low or non-alcohol products to try and piggyback on the established category of gin.
By comparison, Mr Cook praises the launch of Gordon’s 0% for leading by example. He commended the brand for strictly adhering to regulations, and ensuring, despite the obvious linkage and association, that it does not describe its new alcohol-free product as gin.
“Gordon’s has been very careful in describing their new alcohol-free product, and rightly hasn’t used the word gin as a descriptor. The company of course produces the world-famous Gordon’s London dry gin. As a result, like all serious players in the gin industry, they are very aware of the need to respect gin terminology and to protect the heritage of the category, whilst able to build on their established and distinctive branding.”
Another Gin Guild member, Warner’s Distillers, also launched two new alcohol-free products last year. The new products are clearly members of the same family as their well-known gins, but again, care was taken to ensure that the legal descriptions were clear and accurate.
Tom Warner, one of the founders, said:
We have spent the last two years, with a considerable amount of back and forth in the process, creating our Botanic Garden Spirit 0% range. As an established gin producer entering this non-alcoholic space, we were very conscious about getting it right and not risking misleading the consumer in any way.
“We have always focused on being real and authentic, which means trying to take responsible decisions and making sure our packaging design and language is clear and could not possibly lead to any ambiguity or confusion.”
The Gin Guild has secured the withdrawal or remarketing of several low ABV drinks incorrectly described as gin. Through its partnership with Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards, it has also issued Assured Primary Authority Advice for businesses creating low or zero-alcohol drinks intended to imitate gin.
Nicholas Cook said: “The gin industry has diversified and grown over the last few years. This has led to many businesses working to differentiate themselves from one another. However, the line must not be crossed when it comes to accurately describing what is and what is not gin.
“The Gin Guild will continue monitoring for non-compliant products to ensure the category is not misused. We urge all businesses seeking to enter the low or non-alcohol beverage market to read the guidelines with care. The cost of withdrawing a brand and the damage to brand reputation, not to mention legal consequences, all need to be considered by producers who, alongside retailers – who also have a responsibility to consumers – must ensure that products are correctly described.”