Alcohol guidelines

Lack of discourse over units is hard to swallow

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Lack of discourse over units is hard to swallow

Related tags Alcoholic beverage Beer Brewers

Life is all about risk. Some things are riskier than others — paragliding naked over a tank of ravenous sharks while juggling a set of sharp knives, for example.

However, if the Government killjoys are set to have their way, soon the average drinker could be compared to the kind of thrill seeker who hurls themselves off tall buildings with only a hanky to slow their descent.

Every pleasurable thing seems now to carry a risk — I’m assuming you’ve all given up the bacon butties, and what do you mean, you’re putting salt on your food!?

The latest Government guidelines have now been announced, lowering the recommended alcohol consumption rate to 14 units a week, around six pints of beer, with the recommendation that such consumption be spread over three days — not just Friday night.

Now, naturally, as with all Government recommendations, most consumers will simply say “of course”, and completely ignore them, but it will slowly seep into the public consciousness and it’s a further demonisation of alcohol consumption.

The most galling thing has been the lack of consultation with the sector. Alcohol consumption rates are falling and a large part of this is down to co-operation between industry, Government and concerned groups.

Pubs are one of the main point of contacts with alcohol for most consumers; to enable the sector to have had more buy-in and understanding of what has guided the change surely would have been more productive.

This industry is keen to promote responsible drinking — pubs are about more than just places to drink in — working with them to give them the tools to push that message should be a priority.

Unilaterally announcing this without any industry consultation is hardly getting the new year off on the right foot.

Speaking of right feet, the announcement by three major brewers that they are putting up beer prices will feel like something akin to a kick in the teeth to the trade.

Set against a general background of falling supermarket off-trade prices, not to mention consecutive beer duty cuts, most consumers nipping down to their local may be surprised to find their pint’s gone up in price. Of course, some are holding prices, and a hat-tip to Greene King to freezing its prices for the third year running, but we need more to follow suit or, even better, pass down some of those savings.

There is already a huge price gap between on-trade and off-trade, and with the latest report suggesting that bottled ale prices are tumbling in the supermarkets, it’s a real concern for the trade.

It will be the guys in the pubs that have to explain to the customers that the brewers are putting their prices up for “investment” reasons. But those customers won’t understand why the investment costs are coming out of the pubs, but not supermarkets.

To be fair, I’m not entirely sure I do either!

Meanwhile, I hope you had a fantastic Christmas trading period, and I wish you all the best for business in the new year. Despite the challenges facing us all, there’s still plenty of opportunities out there.

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