Gin Guild slams 'freeloading' brands in no/low spirits sector

The Gin Guild, the not-for-profit international gin industry body, has denounced spirits producers who describe low or non-alcohol products as ‘gin’ for “freeloading” on the success of the category.

Nicholas Cook, director general of The Gin Guild, said: “Gin is a protected category under EU and UK law and, among other requirements, must not be 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 freeloading on the success of the category. They must market themselves honestly and ensure they do not deliberately or inadvertently mislead consumers.”

Cook has also praised the recent launch of Gordon’s 0% for leading by example. He commended the brand for strictly adhering to regulations and ensuring that it does not describe its new alcohol-free product as gin.

“Gordon’s has been very careful in describing its new alcohol-free product, and rightly hasn’t used the word ‘gin’ as a descriptor,” added Cook. “The company of course produces the world-famous Gordon’s London Dry Gin, which was first produced in 1769. As a result, like all serious players in the gin industry, they are very aware of the need to respect gin terminology and protect the heritage of the category, while being able to build on its established and distinctive branding.” 

Another Gin Guild member, Warner’s Distillers, also launched two new alcohol-free products in late 2020 and ensured its 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 make sure our packaging design and language is clear and could not possibly lead to any ambiguity or confusion.” 

The Gin Guild has over the past 12 months secured the withdrawal or re-marketing of several low ABV drinks incorrectly described as ‘gin’ and established a Primary Authority partnership with Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards for regulatory advice for the gin industry.

The two organisations have also worked together to issue new Assured Primary Authority Advice for businesses creating low or zero-alcohol drinks intended to imitate gin.

Cook added: “The gin industry has diversified and grown over the last few years. This has led to a number of 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.

“There is absolutely no problem with non-alcoholic or low-alcoholic drinks being produced, but legally there is no such thing as a low-alcoholic or non-alcoholic 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 new guidelines with care.”