Diageo has begun shipping its Crown Royal brand of whisky with macro-nutritional information on the package, the first alcohol beverage brand to include a serving facts panel on-pack in the US. The Crown Royal panel provides serving size, number of servings per container, alcohol by volume, calorie count, and grams of carbohydrates, fat, and protein per serving, in addition to the US Dietary Guideline definition of a standard drink: 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol. The company has featured serving details about its brands on its DRINKIQ.com website since 2006, but going forward, Diageo will roll out nutritional information across all brands as packaging changes or updates to labels are made.

The move follows the US Treasury’s Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau’s 2013 approval of a Diageo request to allow labels to include nutrition details. While the labels are voluntary, they would have been forbidden on-pack prior to the 2013 approval. However, Mintel research finds consumers are in fact looking for nutritional information when making their alcoholic beverage choice. According to Mintel’s Beverage Packaging Trends: Spotlight on Beverage Labeling US 2015 report, nearly two thirds of Millennials pay close attention to health claims on beverage labels.

63% of US Millennials pay close attention to health claims on beverage labels

Further Mintel research found that two thirds of white spirits drinkers (age 22+) overall would like ingredient labeling on the products. The same report also found that interest in ingredient labeling on spirits skews younger: 71% of women age 22-34 and 73% of men age 22-34 agree spirits should have ingredient labeling. The Diageo move appears strongly motivated by consumer interest in both ingredient content and nutrition data.

Whereas lighter options hold a distinctly larger share of the beer category, such lower-calorie claims have not been traditional drivers in the spirits segment, apart from the almost-faddish rise of Skinnygirl. Even in that case, the brand appears as much a selling point as the product’s attributes. Mintel research shows that favorite brand (45%) and flavor (41%) are, far and away, the leading characteristics that consumers seek when choosing white spirits. Package size and prestigious brand trail far behind, with all-natural ingredients much further down the list of influencers. However, this could simply be due to the relative lack of all-natural options in the marketplace, as the interest in all-natural ingredients appears significant among Millennial white spirit drinkers, 68% of whom wish there were more all-natural white spirits.

Make no mistake, consumers are not going to turn to alcohol in some quest for a positive health gain, but they are looking for options that mitigate the potential health negatives stemming from their choice. Nutrition content will not be a key driver influencing alcohol consumption, even amid the abundance of better-for-you (BFY) options permeating other food and drink categories.

However, alcohol brands seeking a point of differentiation are turning to ingredient and, now, nutritional labels to set themselves apart from an increasingly crowded marketplace, particularly among younger consumers for whom health (be it personal or environmental) could influence their decision to purchase an all-natural or lighter spirit. The information appears to resonate with younger consumers, in particular, but could ultimately serve more to influence what they choose not to drink.

Billy Roberts is a Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, based in the Chicago office. Billy previously worked as Executive Editor covering consumer insights and new food and beverage trends with a leading trade publication.

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