What IS going on with alcohol-free labelling?

I’ll just say it – the law in the UK for alcohol-free labelling is a joke. It’s a complete mess.

When it comes to alcohol-free adult drinks there’s only four terms you can use.

The first one is non-alcoholic but we can only use that for communion wine so it has a fairly limited appeal.

The next one is alcohol-free which is for drinks of up to 0.05% alcohol by volume.

Then we have de-alcoholised which is for drinks up to 0.5%

And then low alcohol which is for drinks up to 1.2%.

So what’s the problem? Frankly everything.

Most alcohol-free drinks in the world contain up to 0.5%. That’s an accepted level of alcohol because it’s impossible to get drunk on it.

It’s like gluten-free food – that contains some gluten, but it’s so small it has no impact.

Consumers ask for alcohol-free beers or non-alcoholic beers.

We don’t even need a license to sell them.

But because they contain up to 0.5%, we can’t officially call them non-alcoholic or alcohol-free – at least not in the UK.

You can in most of Europe and around the world.

Adult alcohol-free drinks have never been as popular in the UK as they are now and there’s an increasing number of producers who are making these drinks.

But when it comes to labelling and marketing them, they’re stuck.

They can’t call them alcohol-free unless they’re under 0.05%, which most aren’t.

De-alcoholised doesn’t make sense, because they aren’t de-alcoholised.

That’s when you make it at a higher level and reduce the alcohol.

So that only leaves low alcohol, and that’s up to 1.2% and I think to
most people – certainly to me if I didn’t know the law – I’d think that was about 2%.

You know what makes this so much worse?

Soft drinks are not covered by this law.

Take Fentimans – nothing against them personally, just as an example.

It’s a botanically brewed soft drink.

They used to label it as containing up to 0.5% alcohol.

Then they realised that the law meant they didn’t need to.

So one day it just disappeared.

But if you make an alcohol-free beer with the same level of alcohol as Fentimans, you cannot call it an alcohol-free beer even if you put 0.5% on.

That’s just utter madness

Now we’ve taken part in so many consultations with the government since 2006 that I’ve lost track.

And, seriously from filming the intro to this and now, I was checking my email and we just had another invitation to another consultation.

It’s a joke.

Apart from the fact that the growing alcohol-free industry in the UK is being hindered by these laws, it’s worse.

These laws are about to expire.

Basically, in 2014, we changed the labelling laws but they couldn’t decide on the alcohol-free part so they took it out and left the existing broken laws and said we’ll keep them ’til December 2018.

By then someone will probably, maybe, fix them…

Guess what? No one has fixed them.

So, if nothing happens between now and December, they’ll just stop and it’ll be a free-for-all.

That can’t happen.

It’s really simple in my view.

We need to do what any sensible country would do which is allow any
drink up to 0.5% to be called alcohol-free.

Now on the front label you’d need to put ‘contains up to 0.5%’ but it’s that simple.

The alternative is to extend the current broken law or just have a free-for-all.

Producers, retailers, consumers – we all deserve the right to make and sell and enjoy these drinks without all these problems.

The UK lags so far behind the rest of Europe when it comes to choice and a take-up of these drinks.

Now, partly that’s cultural but it’s also to do with how hard it is to market and produce these drinks here.

Please contact your MP tell them the problem, highlight the urgency of the issue, and whatever your view on the actual labelling is just ask them to do something – because at the moment the industry is in trouble.

Isn’t alcohol-free wine just grape juice?

This is something that we hear all the time. People ask their friends on Facebook and Twitter ‘Does anyone know of a good alcohol free wine?’

Someone always replies ‘Why bother? It’s just a grape juice’…

Is it?

I’ll give you three reasons why it’s not.

Number one – grape juice, or at least 100% pure grape juice, is made from crushed and fermented grapes.

Alcohol-free wine is made from crushed fermented grapes, ie from alcoholic wine.

Now, when the grapes ferment, the yeast converts the sugar into alcohol but it also does something else.

It adds what’s called secondary flavors to the grape.

So that’s another flavour on top of the natural flavor of the particular grape used in the wine.

Number two – grapes are very sweet.

This is a de-alcoholised wine from Carl Jung and this is a 100% grape juice from a supermarket.

Calories per 100 millilitres – 16.8 in the wine, 69 in the grape juice – more than four times as many

Sugar in the wine 3.5 grams, sugar in the grape juice 17 grams -there’s only 10.6 grams in CoCa-Cola.

Number three – grapes contain polyphenols.

These are antioxidants and are believed to protect the heart, lowering bad cholesterol, and preventing blood clots.

Now, while you can get these in both grape juice and alcohol-free wine, unless you’re drinking 100% percent pure grape juice you won’t be getting as many, and if you are drinking enough you’re still getting all the extra calories and all the extra sugar.

Actually here’s a bonus reason.

Even the smallest amount of alcohol in a drink helps the flavor in your mouth.

That’s why so many soft drink companies add a small amount of alcohol to their soft drinks, like colas and orange juices.

You’re allowed to put 0.5% in without putting it on the label.

But that means that the alcohol free wine with up to 0.5% alcohol has increased flavor in the mouth.

So there we are – three, no, four reasons why alcohol-free wine is not grape juice.

One – less sugar fewer calories.

Two – the full benefits of the polyphenols.

Three – a more mature and developed taste.

And four – the small amounts of alcohol helps that taste taste even better.

So the next time someone says to you ‘Isn’t alcohol-free wine just a grape juice?’ you know exactly what to say to them!

Hacienda art auction for bomb victims raises more than £1,000

In June we auctioned a pair of rare art works depicting the legendary Hacienda nightclub in Manchester. The auction raised £1172.50 for the Manchester bomb victims and the money has already been received by the British Red Cross.

The limited-edition signed artwork had been donated to us a few years ago by Joy Division and New Order legend, and customer of ours, Peter Hook and had been on display in our shop.

The winning bidder was Factory Records fan Tony Dykes of Brighton who used to go to The Hacienda in the early days during the 1980s as a student at Manchester Polytechnic. He’s very kindly sent us a photograph of the art which is now on his walls.

Tony Dykes with the Hacienda Artwork
Tony Dykes with the Hacienda Artwork

Tony, aged 51, gave up alcohol last Autumn and has since become a customer of The Alcohol-Free Shop.

He said: “Like everyone else, I was appalled at the barbaric attack on innocent concert goers in Manchester, and my deepest sympathy goes out to everyone affected. Words really are not adequate. So most importantly, it is great that this money is going to the ‘We love Manchester’ fund.

“I grew very fond of the city and visited the Hacienda on a number of occasions when it was almost empty. My wife also lived in Manchester in the early to mid 1990s and she visited the Hac when it was a much more popular destination. These amazing prints have a personal resonance for us both and will take pride of place in our house above the record deck and amp.”

Art and antique transport specialist at The British Shop, whose experts carry priceless works around the world, donated their services and safely delivered the prints to Tony for free.

Our shop walls are not the same without these beautiful screenprints, but we’re delighted they’ve gone to a good home and raised money for an important cause.

We want to thank everyone who bid on the auction and especially Tony for his winning bid.


What would you like to talk about?

Customers love to tell us what they think and we’re always ready to listen.

Some of you phone over your order, or travel a long way to our shop, and we love to hear your stories about why you drink alcohol-free and what your favourite drinks are.

But there are only a handful of us and we only have two ears each so we’re looking for more ways to find out more about you.

Please take part in our a survey so we can listen to you better.

We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Are you feeling any better?

Drink yourself healthy

If you’ve been off the booze during Dry January you’ll have begun to reap the benefits.

Better hydration will be improving your skin, hair and nails. You’ll be sleeping better and you’ve probably shed a few pounds.

Don’t stop now!

It takes about six weeks for your liver to regenerate. Two more weeks and you could be feeling as good as new!

Some people feel so much better, they never look back.

If you do go back to the booze, it’s important to have at least two alcohol-free days a week.

Choose our great wines, beers and cocktails – and live life to the full.

Gluten-free Ambar back soon

The ever-popular 0.0% gluten-free Ambar beer is due in this week.

It sells quickly so we’ve put it on pre-order to give you the chance to be among the first in the queue.

Order now and you’ll have your order shipped as soon as Ambar arrives in our warehouse.


Portuguese beers on route

Your favourite Portuguese beers are due to arrive soon in the UK.

Production issues have resulted in limited availability in recent weeks.

We’ve now put Sagres on pre-order so you can secure your share of this delicious brew before it’s all gone.


Big demand for Weinkoenig

Demand for the delicious Weinkoenig wines has once again outstripped supply.

These wines are now on order and we know the producers will be quick off the mark to replenish our stocks.

We’ve put these best-sellers on pre-order so you can place your order today – so don’t delay!


Thanks for your feedback

Thanks for the fabulous response to our customer survey!
Your feedback is a great help and we’ll be applying some of your ideas and suggestions to improve our service.

A couple of people made comments that required a reply but because it was anonymous we have no way to contact you! If you would like a reply, please do email us at info@alcoholfree.co.uk

Your comments are always welcome and if there’s anything you want to more of, or less of, we’ll do our best to please.


Order online now!

To order online, visit our web site at www.alcoholfree.co.uk – don’t forget, you can choose Free Super Saver Delivery if you spend over £129!

Or visit our Manchester store – open Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm, and Saturday 10am to 4pm.

Reflections on 2016

As I raised a glass of alcohol-free sparkling Pearl Blanc wine last night I reflected on the year that had just ended and thought about the year ahead.

We’ve had all the celebrity deaths and the election of Donald Trump, but Brexit has been the single biggest event affecting The Alcohol-Free Shop.

We don’t know how things will pan out long term, but in the short-term the Pound has slumped against the Euro – dropping from around 1.40 to under 1.20 (and at some points under 1.10).

Nearly all our drinks come from the EU so it makes a big difference to us. Despite increases in costs to us, we’ve held off raising prices – but rises are inevitable.

Despite this, it’s been a great year for us at The Alcohol-Free Shop. We marked our 10th anniversary in 2016 and saw a very healthy growth in sales and customers as we have every year since we started in 2006.

We’ve also been happy to help those less fortunate by donating zero-alcohol drinks to charities and worthy causes including an event to welcome Syrian refugees in December.

We faced a few problems. All couriers are overstretched at Christmas which means more mistakes and more breakages. There was a shortage of haulage vehicles to transport goods from the continent. A combination of higher-than-expected December sales, and external failures beyond our control (one wagon left Germany with someone else’s pallets…), led to stock shortages in the last few weeks.

On the positive side, we’ve seen many improvements and laid the foundation for new developments in 2017.

We launched a new version of our web site. Our site is now easy to use on mobiles and tablets making ordering more convenient for existing and new customers. We’ll continue making improvements in 2017.

Now easy-to-use on mobiles!
Now easy-to-use on mobiles!

Switching to the new site in December is one of the ‘bravest’ decisions we’ve made. But, apart from the odd teething problem which were quickly fixed, it went smoothly, helped our growth this month and made our customers happier.

The website changes are just the start of a much bigger set of improvements to better serve our customers.

We have some very exciting plans that we’ll share with you as soon as we can.

As always, I’d like to thank every single person who has supported us this year. Every time someone places an order we appreciate the trust you show in us.

The demand for zero-alcohol drinks is growing in the UK and we’re proud of the part we’ve played to help this since 2006.

More people are moving in to the market and the choice of who to buy from is growing. Despite that increased competition, we’ve continued to grow and our regular customers – some from our first week in 2006 – come back to us time and time again.

We know from your feedback that this is because you appreciate that we try to go the extra mile for our customers (see what Christine did on Christmas Eve!)

You also know we genuinely care about the people we supply to and the products we sell. We started The Alcohol-Free Shop for good reasons, and it wasn’t to jump on a bandwagon!

I hope 2016 has been a good year for you and yours, and I wish you all the very best for 2017.

See you in the New Year!

Just the ticket – a Christmas journey

We always try to go the extra mile for our customers. This time it was 300. Almost.

In the run-up to Christmas, everyone’s rushing to plan the perfect festive season.

At The Alcohol-Free Shop, we’re part of many of those plans. Our customers look to us to help create great memories and we do our very best to keep our promises.

But sometimes things go wrong. Couriers lose parcels, tasks are overlooked in the whirl of activity, sometimes bottles are broken – and that means sometimes our promises are too.

We rely on producers to make the drinks we sell, transport companies to deliver them to us from around the world, and courier companies to deliver them to you. Even when we do our best, a problem with any part of this chain can cause other problems for us and, more importantly, our customers.

One customer was seriously ill and undergoing chemotherapy. He was looking forward to joining in the fun by raising a glass of alcohol-free wine with his family and making it a Christmas to remember.

He ordered six bottles of wine but we were told by the courier that the goods were damaged in transit and couldn’t be salvaged.

It was too late to get a replacement out to the customer by courier. He simply wasn’t going to get his wine for Christmas Day.

Unless we delivered it ourselves.

Every person who works at The Alcohol-Free Shop puts the customer first and makes an extraordinary effort to get things right.

We understood how much this Christmas meant to him.

Our co-founder, Chris Humphreys, put her own plans on hold to play Santa and save his day. She may not have Santa’s beard, but she showed she certainly has the heart.

She booked train tickets for a nine-hour round trip to hand-deliver the wines on Christmas Eve.

Just the ticket
Just the ticket

She left home before dawn to travel to Manchester to collect the wine at The Alcohol-Free Shop for the onward journey south.

With the tickets, and box of wine, in hand Chris was within 30 minutes of boarding the train for the next leg of the 300-mile journey when the customer reported his wine had arrived. One bottle was broken, but all was not lost.

The day was saved; the train ticket costs and time were not.

But Christine could now go home to spend the day with her family.

And the customer will enjoy his family Christmas as planned – and that’s what matters most to us.

Merry Christmas from everyone at The Alcohol-Free Shop!

New Spanish Sparkling wine

The new Win Sparkling 0.5% wine is the latest addition to the Spanish range of Win wines that’s proving a big hit.

We’ve just has a delivery from the Matarromera winery in Spain so we’re now fully stocked.

The Win tempranillo, Win 12 crianza and white Win verdejo are being snapped up by customers who’ve pre ordered having already tried these great new wine.

We’ve now added the Win sparkling 0.5% ABV that we’re sure you’re going to love.

Order from your mobile

We’re about to launch our mobile-phone version of The Alcohol-Free Shop.

Those of you who want to continue to place your orders on your laptop/ipad or computer will still be able to do so.

The new, customised, no-fuss mobile system will allow you to order your drinks from www.alcoholfree.co.uk more conveniently from your phone while you’re on the move.

The new service will be coming soon.