Supermarkets 'still sell beer cheaper than water'

By Ellie Bothwell

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cheap alcohol, Alcoholic beverage, Government

The programme will examine how the nation's drinking habits have changed
The programme will examine how the nation's drinking habits have changed
Supermarkets are still selling beer cheaper than water and the Government’s below-cost ban is “ineffective”, a Channel 4 Dispatches programme will report tonight.

The off-trade is also selling own-label cider at such low costs a man can breach his recommended daily alcohol limit for £1 and a woman for 75p, according to an investigation for The Cost of Cheap Alcohol​, which will be aired at 8pm tonight.

The programme will examine how the nation’s drinking habits have changed and investigate “how the drinks industry have mobilised to fight off Government attempts to clamp down on cheap drink”.

Low prices

A study for the Channel 4 show found that three of the UK’s biggest supermarkets have sold beer at such low-prices for the World Cup that it is cheaper than some mineral water. It said the cheapest lager was being sold by Tesco, which is selling multipacks of Fosters, Carlsberg and Carling for the equivalent of 69p a pint. Tesco’s 750ml bottle of Perrier was on sale at 73p a pint – as of noon, 23 June.

Furthermore, Asda and Tesco have been selling two litre bottles of their own-label cider at £2.25.

Below-cost ban

The programme, presented by openDemocracy founder Anthony Barnett, will also argue that the Government’s below-cost alcohol ban, stating that a 440ml can of 4% ABV beer will have to cost at least 41p, is “ineffective”. Following an analysis of thousands of drink prices in supermarkets over the past five years, Dispatches said it found not one drink sold below the floor prices brought in by the new scheme.

It will reflect back on David Cameron’s foreword to the Government’s alcohol strategy, launched in 2012, when he said he would bring in a new minimum unit price, adding: "When beer is cheaper than water, it’s just too easy for people to get drunk on cheap alcohol at home before they even set foot in the pub.”
Dr Nick Sheron, one of the country’s  leading hepatologists, told the programme: “People’s personalities haven’t changed in the last 30 years, you know, human nature hasn’t changed. What’s changed is their environment. What’s changed is that they’re having cheap booze pushed at them by retailers… and their priority is to increase their profitability.”

Related topics: Beer

Related news

Show more


Show more

Drunk before going to pub

Posted by Katherine Spurling,

We as publicans find it really annoying when people who have already drunk too much, many at home on cheap alcohol, then turn up at 11-00pm and later expecting us to serve them, and get abusive when we tell them they will not be served as they appear to be drunk. When we applied for the extra hour licence we did so for our regular customers, many who work shift work and just want a pint to wind down after work, or are celebrating a special occasion. I often go late night shopping and have seen youths sending in an older person to go into supermarkets and purchase cheap alcohol for them, and as soon as outside they distribute it between them and go off to drink. It is not enough to say an older person bought it in the shop, these empty cans & cardboard cartons that contained the cans that are throw about after, either cans or cartons should have a bar code to show which supermarket,garage chains they were purchased from, surely if they can bar code for prices the brewers can barcode for these type of outlets, then if the police could trace where purchased then they could make these sellers more responsible about their selling tactics, breweries won't want to do this as it is in their interest to make profit, pubs are not the culprits for drunken behaviour, we don't sell cans so we are not responsible for all the litter created by all the empty cans & cardboard cartons that litter the streets & alleyways.

Report abuse

Beer cheaper than water in Supermarkets?

Posted by Simon Grant,

Factually incorrect. I'm no supporter of what the supermarkets do but this is just plain inaccurate. You can buy in all major Supermarkets a 2 litre PET sparkling or still own brand Water for between 16p & 18p. Somebody show me two litres of any beer for that amount!

Report abuse


Posted by James Stewart,

Still plenty of pubs left in this area, because they offer more than a can in a carrier bag. That offer is more expensive to provide - people understand that and will choose the option that fits their needs for a particular occasion.
Price isn't everything and even a 50p MUP would hardly have people flocking back to the pubs selling at, say, £1.50 per unit.

Report abuse