Impact of Low Alcohol Verbal Descriptors on Perceived Strength: An Experimental Study

07 Dec 2017

Abstract Objectives: Low alcohol labels are a set of labels that carry descriptors such as “low” or “lighter” to denote alcohol content in beverages. There is growing interest from policy makers and producers in lower strength alcohol products. However, there is a lack of evidence on how the general population perceives verbal descriptors of strength. The present research examines consumers’ perceptions of strength (%ABV) and appeal of alcohol products using low or high alcohol verbal descriptors. Design: A within-subjects experimental study in which participants rated the strength and appeal of 18 terms denoting low (nine terms), high (eight terms) and regular (one term) strengths for either (a) wine or (b) beer according to drinking preference. Methods: 1,600 adults (796 wine and 804 beer drinkers) sampled from a nationally representative UK panel. Results: Low, Lower, Light, Lighter, and Reduced formed a cluster and were rated as denoting lower strength products than Regular, but higher strength than the cluster with intensifiers consisting of Extra Low, Super Low, Extra Light and Super Light. Similar clustering in perceived strength was observed amongst the high verbal descriptors. Regular was the most appealing strength descriptor, with the low and high verbal descriptors using intensifiers rated least appealing. Conclusions: The perceived strength and appeal of alcohol products diminished the more the verbal descriptors implied a deviation from Regular. The implications of these findings are discussed in terms of policy implications for lower strength alcohol labelling and associated public health outcomes.