Beer to get 'nutritional' labels
In a New Zealand first, breweries Lion and DB will add nutritional information panels to beer bottles, cans and packaging.
These labels will give consumers information about the sugar, calories, dietary fibre, protein and carbohydrate content of their beers.
Throughout the year 450 million nutritional labels will be rolled out onto packaging on a wide range of beers including Steinlager, Macs, Speights, Tui and Monteiths.
It's the first step of a Brewers Association promotion campaign called 'Beer the Beautiful Truth' that aims to "bust myths and communicate nutritional facts about beer".
Brewers Association external relations director Kevin Sinnott said while DB and Lion are on board so far, they welcome other New Zealand breweries to join the campaign.
He says the initiative will help keep consumers informed about beer. "Beer gets a bad rap at times, often due to misconceptions around what's in it.
"With nutrition information panels, everything is out in the open. And we think people might be pleasantly surprised by the beautiful truth about beer."
A press release from the campaign was keen to push the fact that beer is low sugar.
"Most people don't know that most beer is 99 percent sugar free. Malted barley is one of the key ingredients in beer, and in the brewing process the starch from malted barley is converted into sugar. This sugar, or sugar from any other ingredient such as wheat, other grains, or natural cane sugar, is then converted into alcohol by the yeast during the fermentation process. As a result, the finished beer is very low in sugar."
Janet Weber, senior lecturer at Massey University's institute of food and science, said that focussing on low sugar is "very misleading to the consumer".
"Obviously they've chosen to focus on the sugar, it's the buzz thing now isn't it - everyone wants sugar free. But they're sort of ignoring the fact that alcohol provides quite a lot of kilojoules."
Ms Weber says it's important for people to think about the total kiloujoules in what they are drinking, in addition to the food they're eating.
"Alcohol itself contributes more kiloujoules per gram than sugar does."
She says "it seems a bit unusual" that nutrition labels weren't listed on beers already, but thinks the labels will be useful for people to compare across brands.
"Alcohol is very important to our society but it is not actually safe at the levels we drink. We can't make it healthy by saying it's low in sugar".
All the nutritional information included on participating beers is also available to view on the website beerthebeautifultruth.co.nz.