Indonesia considers alcohol plain packaging move

In the latest development in the plain packaging debate, Indonesia is reportedly stepping up its plans to introduce plain packaging for alcoholic products.

In July it was reported that the Indonesian government was considering the introduction of new regulations requiring manufacturers of beverages with an alcohol content above 20% to use plain packaging and/or place graphic warnings on packaging.

Indonesia’s plans first emerged in May, when it was reported that the country sought to impose plain packaging on Australian wine – paradoxically, in retaliation for Australia’s plain packaging legislation for tobacco products.

According to the Jakarta Post, Deputy Trade Minister Bayu Krisnamurthi stated: “We want people to be warned about the dangers of consuming alcoholic drinks. We see a lot of problems caused by the habit, including pertaining to health and crimes.”

The comments suggest that Indonesia’s plans are motivated by health concerns, rather than a political agenda. However, there are fears that other countries and industries could also be affected. Speaking to Drinks Industry Ireland, Mike Ridgway, spokesman for the Consumer Packaging Manufacturers Alliance, stated: “We’ve long feared that introducing plain packs for tobacco products would eventually lead to plain packaging in other sectors. It now looks like these fears could become reality sooner than anyone expected. If Indonesia retaliates to plain pack cigarettes by adopting branding bans for alcohol, it would affect all alcohol products sold to Indonesia from anywhere in the world.”

Counsel comment:

Indonesia being a Muslim country, it has relatively low levels of spirits consumption. Wine is limited due to high import taxes, but local and imported beer is widely consumed. These will be exempt. A more serious problem is locally handmade (and unregulated) spirits such as arak – and, more seriously, locally made spirits which are passed off as imported brands and periodically cause deaths. At this stage, it is unclear whether the rules will merely limit labelling space or whether they will interfere with trademark use and registration. Of course, this is from a government which is leaving office in October, but other sectors are seeing a rush of new rules in an attempt to finish the current government’s work.

Nick Redfearn, deputy CEO and partner at Rouse

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