Alcohol industry defends role of supermarket promotions

Tesco research shows in-store offers do not lead to irresponsible consumption. By Russell Parsons

wineAlcohol retailers and producers have hit back at suggestions that supermarket promotions contribute to alcohol problems as the Government steps up pressure to curb irresponsible marketing.

Appearing in front of the Health Select Committee last week, 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.

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

According to Tesco research, he said, 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”.

The inquiry comes as the Government unveils plans to force supermarkets to display information on the health impacts of alcohol, using existing powers from the Food Safety Act.

Revealing its mandatory code of practice on alcohol, the Government is also to ask alcohol retailers to display information about the alcohol unit content of drinks, and plans to crack down on “irresponsible” on-trade offers including “all you can drink for 10” promotions.

The committee also queried North and Jeremy Blood, managing director of Scottish & Newcastle, on the companies’ contributions to industry-funded responsible drinking initiative the Drinkaware Trust. Labour MP Stephen Hesford suggested these were “derisory” as a proportion of marketing budgets.

Blood, who estimates that S&N’s contribution is between 1m and 2m against a marketing budget of about 50m, and North, who estimates the retailer contributes about 75,000 to the trust, says the amounts are not reflective of their commitment to the aims of the trust, pointing out the additional alcohol education they carry out.

The committee is expected to hear further evidence from the industry before it produces a set of recommendations for the Government while the Government’s proposals are subject to a 12-week consultation.

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