At Beer Institute’s annual meeting earlier this week, president Jim McGreevy included alcohol policy among the issues the association is currently confronting. Two key themes, both linked to the 2020 revision of US Dietary Guidelines: 1) differentiating beer from liquor and wine; 2) pushing back on the increasingly prevalent messaging from public health that there is “no safe level” of alcohol consumption. There’s “no science” behind this notion, Jim asserted, and “we will deal with it,” he assured. Recall, one of the Dietary Guideline committee members, and the only one with a background in alcohol research, is Dr. Timothy Naimi, who is closely associated with the “group of activists” advancing the “no safe level” message.
Specifically, Beer Institute aims to preserve the change in language achieved in the last round of Dietary Guideline revisions away from “standard drink,” and continue to differentiate beer from other alcohol beverages. Pint glasses at the meeting had engraved cut offs for 12 oz of beer at 5% ABV, 5 oz of wine at 12% ABV and 1.5 oz of spirits at 40% ABV. Another goal: preserve the specific guideline of 1 drink/day for women, 2/day for men, as opposed to any potential efforts to reduce the limits or establish “no safe level.”
To support these positions, Beer Institute recently launched http://www.knowyourdrink.org/, a website to help consumers understand the difference between typical servings of beer, wine and spirits. For now, the website consists solely of a drink calculator to show how much alcohol is really in a “typical” drink compared to a 12 oz beer at 5% ABV. For example, using recipes from Mr. Boston’s Official Bartender’s Guide, the calculator shows that a typical cosmo, gin & tonic and other cocktails equate to 1.3 or so beers, while a Long Island Iced Tea equates to 2.5 beers.
Recall, Beer Institute unveiled a “Know Your Drink” initiative, with basically the same aims, back in May 2014, as it prepared for the 2015 revision of the Dietary Guidelines. At that time, BI did not launch a website or other consumer-targeted communications. Rather, BI limited advocacy to DC elites, policymakers and the media. As the May 2014 edition of AII reported, the original version of KYD was part of Beer Institute’s “Brand Beer efforts to elevate the beer industry’s reputation and ‘win policy’ debates over taxes and other regulatory issues, as well as ‘defeat efforts to blur the lines between beer and hard liquor,’” as then-BI communication VP Chris Thorne explained at the time.
Meanwhile, Beer Institute, National Beer Wholesalers Association and Brewers Association will launch a “shared industry campaign this summer to grow beer,” McGreevy also announced at this year’s annual meeting. For too long, industry members “focused on the problem,” Jim said. Now, the “people in this room” will “get about the important business of finding solutions” to building beer (not dissimilar from the aims of Brand Beer). Not all members are aboard this new initiative. MillerCoors won’t participate given its corn syrup battle with AB, stemming from the latter’s Super Bowl ads, and Heineken USA will wait until everyone is on board. Meanwhile, final details, messaging and funding are still being worked out, Jim noted.