Drinks industry exceeds one billion alcohol unit reduction target

By Mike Berry

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Alcoholic beverage

The unit target has largely been met by brewers reducing the strength of beer
The unit target has largely been met by brewers reducing the strength of beer
The drinks industry has exceeded its target of removing one billion units of alcohol in the market two years early, a new report shows.

A report on progress​ made under the Government-backed Responsibility Deal found that between 2011 and 2013, 1.3 billion units were removed as a result of action by suppliers to reduce the ABV of their products.

Department of Health data shows the reduction has mainly been achieved by reductions in the average strength of beer, which has reduced from 4.42% in 2011 to 4.14% in 2013. This accounted for 1.2bn of the 1.3bn total reduction.

Average ABV has decreased in all product categories apart from spirits, where there was a slight increase from 36.85% to 36.92%.

Overall the average ABV fell from 7.49% to 7.28% between 2011 and 2013.


"Our brewers have made a fantastic contribution in delivering the pledge in two ways," said Brigid Simmonds, BBPA chief executive. “They have adjusted the strengths of certain products, and have brought new, innovative, great-tasting lower strength products to consumers.

"We are seeing increasing interest from consumers in lower strength beers, and innovation in the tax system, with the Chancellor's 50% beer duty discount for beers below 2.8% in strength, has also created an incentive, showing the benefits to be gained by encouraging both producers and consumers with lower taxes for lower-strength drinks like beer."

The BBPA and its members are also taking action under a further, specific pledge, launched in July 2014, to reduce total alcohol units in the on-trade through initiatives such as stocking and promoting lower strength options, or offering lower strength house wines.


Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: “This is an incredible voluntary effort from the industry. It is yet another example of real progress being achieved by Government and industry working in partnership to promote responsible drinking and tackle alcohol misuse.

“The industry has a vital role to play in tackling harmful consumption and is committed to building on this progress and delivering on its Responsibility Deal pledges, including publishing guidance on the responsible retail of alcohol by the end of the year.”   

Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group and chair of the Responsibility Deal Alcohol Network said: “This is a fantastic result achieved through the collective efforts of producers, retailers, wholesalers and pub groups, supported by Government.

"We have exceeded a voluntary target to remove one billion units of alcohol from the UK market by growing a new market for lower alcohol drinks. This is yet more concrete evidence of what can be achieved when government and industry work in partnership, responding to a growing consumer demand for lower alcohol drinks; further proof that our drinking culture is changing."

Suppliers that have agreed to the unit reduction pledge include AbInBev UK, Carlsberg UK, Heineken, Molson Coors, Diageo, Pernod Ricard, C&C Group and Marston’s, as well as retailers such as Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda.

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