Alcohol industry in the dock on promotions

Alcohol retailers and producers have been defending the role of promotions today (May 14) in the misuse of alcohol as Government pressure to curb irresponsible marketing is stepped up.

 Alcohol retailers and producers have been defending the role of promotions today (May 14) in the misuse of alcohol as Government pressure to curb irresponsible marketing is stepped up.

Appearing in front of the Health Select Committee, representatives from both the on and off-trade were quizzed by a committee of MPs on supermarket, pub and bar promotions as part of a wider inquiry into alcohol misuse.

David North, community and government director at Tesco, in response to a question about the number and prominence of in-store promotions and their role in the irresponsible consumption of alcohol, says promotions do not lead to increased consumption.

He adds that its research shows that customers buying alcohol on promotion do not buy the same type of alcohol again for a couple of weeks, suggesting “customers use promotions to stock up, not to consume more”.

Both North and Jeremy Blood, managing director of Scottish & Newcastle defended their contributions to industry funded responsible drinking site the Drinkaware Trust after Labour MP Stephen Hesford questioned whether their contributions as a proportion of marketing budgets is “derisory”.

Blood, who estimated that S&N’s contribution is between £1 and 2m against a marketing budget of about £50m, says he is “comfortable” with that amount especially considering the amount the Treasury receives from the industry in excise duty.

North, who estimates Tesco contributes about £75,000 to the Trust, says the amount is not reflective of Tesco’s “commitment” to the aims of the Trust , pointing out that the retailer already provides health information at point of sale while encouraging staff to “think 25” when serving young people.

The Committee also heard from Dr Petra Meir from the University of Sheffield, which last year produced research linking the price of alcohol with consumption.

North says Tesco is willing to play “active and constructive role” in Government-led discussions with the industry on the role of price, although both Blood and Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association both state that minimum pricing would penalise the majority of responsible drinkers while having little affect on alcohol misuse.

The debate comes a day after the Government launched plans for a mandatory code which includes forcing supermarkets will be forced to display information on the health impacts of alcohol and a crackdown on “irresponsible” on-trade promotions although it confirmed it is not planning to introduce a minimum price per unit.

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