Alcohol advertising in Spain will soon be regulated by rules that vary according to the drinks' alcoholic content. The new regulations will limit the promotion of drinks with more than 20% alcohol through sponsorship, benefiting brewers and winemakers at distillers' expense.

Spain is a major beer and wine producer, while much of its spirits production is imported. Spain's food minister, Miguel Arias Canete, announced at the start of the International Beer Symposium that the Spanish government was preparing new legislation affecting alcoholic beverages. There is to be a new distinction between drinks containing less than 20% alcohol, such as beer and wine, and distilled spirits.

The new regulations are designed to reduce excessive alcohol consumption. This is to be achieved primarily through the new regulations' effect on advertising. The promotion of alcoholic drinks with an alcohol content higher than 20% is already forbidden on Spanish television but the new laws will also limit alcoholic beverages manufacturers' opportunities to enter sponsorship deals.

In an attempt to circumvent this legislation, some manufacturers have attempted to introduce low-alcohol variants of their brands. However, this is frequently unsuccessful, thanks to the ever-vigilant AAP, the body regulating Spanish advertising. Such ventures are usually foiled because whereas the brand itself may have a sufficiently low alcohol content, the brand of which it is derived, and which is indirectly promoted by such advertising, isn't.

Other European countries already have such regulations. In France, the televised advertising of all alcoholic beverages, regardless of its strength, is illegal, as is the sponsoring of events by brewers and distillers.

At the symposium, the food minister stressed the importance of the brewing sector to Spain's food and drink industry. Sales of beer reached E5.9 billion in 2001, which is higher than the value of the wine market. Mr Canete also stated that he was in favor of classifying beer as a functional food that is beneficial to health when consumed in moderation.

Related research: Datamonitor, "Event occasions - New Consumer Insight (DMCM0132)"