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Drinks trade on track to remove 1 billion units of alcohol

Published:  28 April, 2014

The drinks industry is on track to remove 1 billion units of alcohol from the market by the end of 2015, according to a report by the Department of Health.

So far the trade is one quarter of the way there, having cut 253 million units of alcohol from the UK market in the past two years. Drinks businesses have contributed by reducing the strength of drinks and introducing lower abv options.

Henry Ashworth, Portman Group chief executive and chair of the Responsibility Deal Alcohol Network, said: "It is good news that producers and retailers have already removed 253 million units of alcohol from the UK market and are on track to remove 1 billion units by the end of 2015. This report shows the first year results of this four year pledge so it is important that we stay focused on continuing this industry-wide innovation."

The report stated that there had been a number of changes to different categories of alcoholic drinks, with beer, cider and RTDs contributing most by way of reduction - 311 million units. However the average abv of wine and spirits increased slightly, with spirits adding 42 million and wine adding 15 million units back into the market. Accounting for a shift away from beer and cider towards wine and spirits, the overall reduction was calculated at 253 million units of alcohol.

Under the Responsibility Deal, 125 drinks forms have signed up to a series of pledges to "foster a culture of responsible drinking, which will help people to drink within guidelines".

With regard to specific pledges 93 companies committed to having 80% of bottles and cans displaying unit and health information and a pregnancy warning by the end of 2013. Seventy pub chains and retailers pledged to display unit and health information, while 64 companies are funding Drinkaware through financial support (over £5 million a year) and in-kind support.

Individual retailers and producers were also audited for their contributions. Asda said in July 2012 it grew low alcohol sales by 135%, doubling its total low-alcohol market share from 12.8% to 24.8%.

Last year FirstCape expanded its 5.5% abv range to 15 wines, and reduced over 90% of its full strength red wines from South Africa to under 13% alcohol. It said that by reducing its red wines to under 13% it cut 1.1 unit per bottle. "From April 2012 -April 2013 we sold 537,216 cases of full strength red wine, therefore we have reduced unit consumption by at least 3,545,626 units. We sold 375,606 cases of light wines which will have had a significant impact on unit consumption. From May 2012 we have reduced our Café Collection wines from 5.5% to 4%, since then we have sold 250,679 cases and therefore have reduced unit consumption by at least 1,654,481 units."

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: "Our brewers are making great progress in delivering the pledge in two ways. They have adjusted the strengths of certain products, and are also being hugely innovative in bringing new, lower-strength products to market and giving consumers greater choice."