Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

LIVE: trade reacts to minimum pricing plans

Published:  23 March, 2012

News that David Cameron plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol of 40p per unit and outlaw the sale of multi-buy deals has provoked a strong reaction from the drinks industry.


News that David Cameron plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol of 40p per unit and outlaw the sale of multi-buy discount deals has provoked a strong reaction from the drinks industry.

According to Negociants UK's managing director, Simon Thorpe MW, minimum pricing is a measure which should help to tackle the extremes of binge drinking and should therefore be "welcomed". "Set at 40p per unit it won't unduly affect wine sales at mid and upper tier pricing, and it might help us as an industry to convey a clearer message about the true value of the wine we sell," he said.

"Heavy handed and disproportionate," is how chief executive officer of Slurp, Dr Jeremy Howardsees the move. "As a premium retailer, the introduction of minimum unit pricing will not affect Slurp significantly, and in fact, it may even be slightly beneficial as the pricing of our premium wines and spirits will become more competitive versus cheap supermarket alternatives.

"But what does concern us is the way this Government appears to be demonizing alcohol consumption per se. The typical Slurp customer is about as far from an anti-social teenager as you could possibly get - so why should they be linked in any way? There is no evidence that moderate consumption of wine, beers or spirits is in any way detrimental to health and hence the Government's 'one size fits all' approach to regulation looks increasing heavy handed and disproportionate."

The WSTA said it opposed minimum unit pricing and the proposed restrictions to promotions because it will "adversely affect millions of consumers and businesses in the UK, while doing nothing to tackle the root causes of alcohol misuse".

Interim chief executive Gavin Partington said: "Minimum unit pricing will punish responsible consumers with higher prices. A 40p minimum unit price will impact only on the bottom 30% of households by income group - hitting the poor hardest and will do nothing to address the causes of alcohol misuse. There is no evidence to prove that minimum unit pricing will tackle alcohol misuse - in fact the international evidence suggests that problem drinkers are least likely to be deterred by price rises."

On the subject of promotions restrictions, Partington added: "There is no compelling evidence that retailer promotions are causing alcohol misuse - indeed overall levels of alcohol consumption are falling. Government policy should be evidence based and there is no evidence that banning alcohol promotions will reduce alcohol misuse."

Diageo labelled the plans as "misguided" and questioned whether credible evidence exists to prove a minimum price for alcohol successfully curbs drink-related harm.

Andrew Cowan, country director for Diageo GB, said: "Diageo has consistently supported this government and its predecessors to tackle alcohol misuse and believes measures such as stricter law enforcement in addressing drunk and disorderly behaviour will work. However, the intended introduction of pricing intervention is misguided and appears to run counter to the Responsibility Deal set out by this Government.

"Rather than being a targeted intervention, it simply hits consumers hard, particularly those on low incomes. There is no credible evidence from anywhere in the world that it is an effective measure in reducing alcohol related harm."

Australian Vintage's Paul Schaafsma, general manager for UK & Europe, said: "We view the government move to introduce controls on pricing as being potentially good news for quality brands that sell at sustainable price points. Australian sales above £5 have growing strongly recently and therefore I believe that this will not impact on McGuigan or the Australian category as a whole.

"This move will put pressure on some of the old world suppliers playing at the lower end of the market and it is interesting that wine has been pulled into a debate which is aimed more at high strength beers, spirits and ciders. Obviously this change in policy will potentially affect the way in which some of the promotional mechanics work, but we will be working hard with industry partners to ensure that we support this government initiative."

The Portman Group expressed concern that the plans might damage progress made by the trade on the Responsibility Deal.

Chief executive Henry Ashworth said: "For this strategy to be successful, it must not penalise the vast majority who drink responsibly or unfairly burden businesses that are helping Government tackle alcohol misuse through the responsibility deal partnership - it is vital that these proposals do not undermine this partnership and the good progress that is being made."

The government's alcohol strategy must address Britain's hidden binge drinkers, according to alcohol education charity Drinkaware.

Chris Sorek, chief executive, said: "We are pleased to see that addressing binge drinking is high on the political agenda. However we would like to see more emphasis on tackling the habitual drinking behaviour of UK adults which, if not addressed, will have serious implication for the health of the nation."

Sorek added: "As a charity dedicated to changing the UK's drinking culture, we fully support measures to help reduce alcohol misuse in the UK. While price is one of many factors that influence drinking, at the source of behaviour change is tackling people's attitudes. We work with the Government, public health community and drinks industry on our 'Why let good times go bad campaign?' to do this.

"We are concerned however that while young adults sprawled on pavements after a night out on the town grabs headlines, the strategy does not include measures to tackle the worrying trend of Britain's hidden binge drinkers. Recent ONS statistics confirm Drinkaware's evidence that 25-44 year old working professionals are drinking more heavily and more regularly than young adults."

George Wroblewski, director Smithfield Wine, said: "I am all for it. If it means supermarkets cannot sell at cost or below, it must help the individual wine merchants in the long term."

Harpers editor, Richard Siddle, questioned how credible Cameron's comittment to a minimum price for alcohol is, and whether it is a smokescreen to pave the way for an extension to the duty escalator that is due to end in the 2014 budget. Read his comment here: