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Carlsberg joins rush to reduce ABV as duty reform comes into force

Carlsberg is set to reduce the ABV on its Danish Pilsner lager as the alcohol duty reforms come into force in August this year.

The move from the Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company (CMBC) will see its flagship beer reduced from 3.8% ABV to 3.4% ABV with reports that on-trade customers have been informed of the change, which is due to come into effect in August.

According to analysis based on the shift in ABV, Carlsberg will pay £9.27 for every litre of alcohol now for its Danish Pilsner, as it is under 3.5%, compared to £20.01 per litre for beers that are between 3.5% and 8.5% ABV.

A spokesperson for Carlsberg told db said that the move would allow it “to invest in innovations and our portfolio of well-loved ales and lagers”.

It also claimed that the reduction would have a health-related impact, stating it would be “supporting public health through the removal of around 56 million units of alcohol for the UK market”.

They said: “We did extensive consumer research, and we are confident our new brew delivers everything beer drinkers have come to expect from our well-balanced Danish Pilsner – crisp and refreshing, with distinct hop aroma – just crafted to contain a little less alcohol.”

The move was also welcomed by Drinkaware, with its chief executive officer, Karen Tyrell, stating that reformulations “demonstrate a positive outcome of the Government’s recent reforms of alcohol duty”.

She said: “Lowering the amount of alcohol in this way helps contribute to our shared goal of reducing alcohol harm. We would encourage other producers to follow CMBC’s lead.”


It comes amid fears that ‘drinkflation’ has already occurred to save production costs, various beers including Heineken’s brand Foster’s, Greene King’s Old Speckled Hen, and Shepherd Neame’s Bishop Finger and Spitfire, have all seen reductions in their ABV recently, in order to save on the cost of alcohol duty, and subsequently offset the cost of rising prices of production.

Foster’s has been reduced from 4 to 3.7% ABV, saving 3p per bottle on duty, Old Speckled Hen had reduced from 5 to 4.8%, saving 2p, Bishops Finger from 5.4% to 5.2%, saving 2p, and Spitfire was reduced from 4.5% to 4.2%, saving 3p per bottle.

Research fellow at the University of Sheffield, Colin Angus, said if every brewery cut alcohol by just 0.3 per cent, they would collectively save around £250 million on duty payments to the Government.


The WTSA has already called on the government to delay the duty reform move with fears that mass action could occur as drinks businesses look to save money.

This morning, the chief executive, Miles Beale has responded to the Carlsberg story on social media, pointing out that it is not as easy for spirits and wine brands to cut ABV and save costs as breweries can do.


There will however be a ‘draught beer relief’ for brewers who sell their beer on draught, as announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in the March Budget, which means duty in pubs and bars would be 11p lower than in supermarkets.

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