Cans of Gosnells mead stacked up against one another

Source: Gosnells

Gosenells range of meads are typically between 4-5.5% abv.

UK mead producer Gosnells has hailed reforms to alcohol duty it says will make its product more competitive relative to the likes of beer and cider.

From 1 August, changes to the categories used to determine tax rates for alcohol come into force. One change is the abolition of the ‘made wine’ category, which saw stronger meads of between 5.5% and 15% taxed at £297.57 per hectolitre.

Under the reforms, all alcoholic products between 8.5% and 22% abv will now be taxed proportionally according to their strength, something Gosnells founder Tom Gosnell said would increase innovation and competition in the category.

“This duty reform is a boon,” he said. “It means that gone are the days of us being stuck in the rigid structure of the previous regime, whereby a mead was taxed the same at 6% and 15%.

“As duty will now increase proportionally, we are free to experiment and innovate across a range of strengths, better reflecting the drinks we’d want to produce.”

Gosnells’ range of meads – sold in Whole Foods Market and on Amazon – are typically between 4%-5.5% abv, placing them in competition with beer and cider.

However, as a result of their classification as a made wine, their tax burden has been significantly higher (£126.08 per hl, vs £40.38 per hl for cider and £19.08 per hl for beer).

Explaining how mead has faced an uphill battle to have its voice heard in debates around duty reform, Gosnell said: “The duty system in the UK has long been anachronistic, a relic of decades of small adjustments, inconsistent schemes and pandering to interest groups mean it has long been ripe for reform.

“Cider, with its large lobbying power in rural constituencies, has always been the beneficiary of this state of affairs.”

Cider and mead producers will also benefit from a broadening of small brewers relief – originally introduced in 2002 by then-chancellor Gordon Brown – to cover all alcoholic products.

The new ‘Small Producers Relief’ will apply to any product less than 8.5% abv. Producers must make less than 4,500 hectolitres a year to be eligible.

This “should provide the same injection of business to other categories such as mead that beer has long enjoyed”, Gosnell added.

Other changes to UK alcohol duty from August are the introduction of a lower rate of duty for products less than 3.5% abv, and a new ‘draught duty’ rate aimed at supporting pubs and bars.