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There is good evidence that changes to alcohol labels, for example through the inclusion of a health message, can improve consumer awareness of the risks relating to excessive consumption (Stockwell, 2006)[i]. However, the evidence that this then leads to actual changes in drinking behaviour and reductions in alcohol harm is weak (Public Health England, 2016, and Kersbergen & Field, 2017)[ii],[iii]

Nevertheless, insofar as labels do have the potential to influence behaviour, the key elements include the label design (which influences whether the content of labels are actually noticed), and how well the information and messages on labels are targeted at their intended audience (Agostinelli & Grube, 2002)[iv]. Research also indicates that the likelihood of behavioural change may be enhanced by the addition of on-shelf labelling, reinforcing a particular health message, at the point-of-sale (Welsh Government, unpublished)[v]

This study investigated what consumers pay attention to on alcohol labels when purchasing alcohol products and the potential impact of changes to current labels, for example through the inclusion of a prominent health message.

Key findings

  • Most participants were in favour of health messages on bottles and cans; however, they were not found to pay attention to them in detail. Little time was spent looking at the areas of a product where health information is usually presented.
  • Newly-designed on and off alcohol labels could offer a significant improvement for delivering key health and unit information when compared to existing alcohol labels.

Research team

Dr Gareth Roderique-Davies and Professor Bev John, at the Addictions Research Group, University of South Wales, aided by Nyle Davies, Sarah Jones and Shona Leeworthy.


[i]Stockwell, T. (2006) A review of research into the impacts of alcohol warning labels on attitudes and behaviour. Centre for Addictions Research of BC.

[ii] Public Heath England (2016) The public health burden of alcohol and the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of alcohol control policies: An evidence review. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/583047/alcohol_public_health_burden_evidence_review.pdf (Accessed 06/07/2018)

[iii] Kersbergen, I., & Field, M. (2017). Alcohol consumers’ attention to warning labels and brand information on alcohol packaging: Findings from cross-sectional and experimental studies. BMC public health, 17(1), 123.

[iv] Agostinelli, G., & Grube, J. W. (2002) Alcohol counter-advertising and the media. Alcohol Research & Health, 26(1), 15-21.

[v] Welsh Government (unpublished) A review of evidence on the use of labelling content as a public health intervention for alcohol.