Drinkers concerned about their weight will now be able to check how many calories are in a glass of their favourite tipple, as one of the UK’s “big four” supermarkets launches a drive to help consumers make “responsible” health choices.
Sainsbury’s has unveiled a new labelling scheme that will list the number of calories in a 125ml glass of 20 of its own-brand wines from this week.
A large 250ml glass of the supermarket’s Winemakers’ Selection Australian Shiraz contains 238 calories – a similar amount to a serving of ice-cream or two fish fingers.
Even a small glass of most Sainbury’s wines, at around 100-119 calories, is equivalent to a slice of cake.
A recent study for the supermarket found that 85 per cent of customers have no idea how many calories are in the average glass of wine.
Nearly two thirds do not include alcohol when adding up their total intake of calories.
Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, welcomed the move. She said: “This is a positive initiative by Sainsbury’s to improve consumer awareness about the calorie content of wine.
“A large glass contains around 200 calories – the same as a packet of crisps.
“Regularly drinking more than the recommended limits can have a noticeable impact on your waistline, as well as storing up health problems for the future.”
The research also revealed that while nearly three-quarters of adults know their recommended daily calorie intake, 58 per cent do not know the guidelines for daily alcohol consumption.
The National Health Service recommends a daily intake of 2,500 calories for the average man and 2,000 for the average woman to maintain a steady weight, while men are advised against regularly drinking more than three to four units of alcohol a day and women two to three units.
The study for Sainsbury’s found two out of three consumers would like to see calorie labelling on alcohol.
Almost as many said that they limit their alcohol consumption in a bid to be healthier, while 44 per cent reported that they tried not to overdo their drinking in an effort to manage their weight.
Helen Buck, chair of Sainsbury’s Responsible Drinking Steering Group, said: “It is clear from our research that shoppers are confused regarding the calories in alcohol. We hope that by clearly displaying this information on the bottle, we’ll be able to help our customers to make responsible choices more easily.”
UK public health minister Jane Ellison said: “The use of calorie labelling on alcoholic drinks is a key way the industry can help support responsible drinking. Clear labelling has an important part to play in helping customers make healthier choices.
“Sainsbury’s are helping to lead the way in providing consumers with the information that they need to make informed choices. We welcome this move and urge others to follow suit.
“Through the public health responsibility deal, this government continues to work with businesses to give consumers more of the information they want and need on alcoholic drinks and other products.”
The Co-op has carried calorie information on alcoholic drinks since 2002 and in 2007 included Department of Health safe drinking advice on all its own-brand beers, wines and spirits. Waitrose has also included per-glass calorie counts on its own-brand wines.
A Co-op spokeswoman said: “As part of our commitment to the government’s public health responsibility deal, we have a range of initiatives to promote responsible drinking, including offering a greater choice of lower-alcohol and alcohol-free products. We also support the charity Drinkaware, which aims to change the UK’s drinking habits for the better through public education.”
Sainsbury’s has said it would continue rolling out calorie labelling throughout this year and next year.