Minimum pricing no “silver bullet” for abuse

The trade has questioned the effectiveness of minimum pricing in the fight against binge drinking claiming that it is no “silver bullet” and ignores the real reasons behind the problem .

Henry Chevallier, chairman of the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) has stated that the cider industry is “disappointed” with the new approach, while Drinkaware’s chief executive, Chris Sorek, stressed the need to target “Britain’s hidden binge drinkers”.

Sorek continued: “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.

“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.”

Chevallier made clear that while the NACM supported action to tackle binge drinking, “there has been no consultation despite the great impact this legislation could have on our industry, which contributes significantly to the local, rural economies where our members are based.

“The NACM recognises that we must find a solution to alcohol misuse, but Minimum Unit Pricing is not a silver bullet, therefore a commitment to implement it without debate is not how we expect Government to operate.”

However, the trade seemed much less concerned about the commercial impact of the new measures. Negociants UK told the drinks business that they would in fact, “help to tackle the extremes of binge drinking and should be welcomed.”

Even further, the new pricing rate might even help lend the wine category greater value. “At 40pence it won’t unduly hurt wine sales at mid and upper tier pricing and might help the industry to convey more clearly the true value of the wine we sell.”

The view was positive too from Paul Schaafsma, general manager for Australian Vintage, who 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.”

There was a similar reaction from Molson Coor’s chief executive, Mark Hunter, who added: “We want to work with the government to tackle alcohol misuse. We believe that extremely low prices – those sold below cost – do not build respect for our brands or alcohol.

“We welcome the opportunity to be consulted on the detail and potential consequences of a minimum price that should address problem prices without affecting the rights of responsible drinkers or damaging responsible business. We believe that Alcohol Responsibility is a UK-wide question and we have always favoured UK-wide solutions – the plans today are a step in that direction.”

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