AB InBev: offer consumers choice to help tackle problem drinkers

By Jason Warner

- Last updated on GMT

AB InBev: offer consumers choice to help tackle problem drinkers

Related tags Alcohol-free beer Alcoholic beverage Government

The relationship between alcohol and crime is not new news to our industry and for many years we have worked hard to play our part in tackling irresponsible drinking and encouraging smarter choices. So, when the Government identified alcohol as one of the six main drivers of crime in their recent Crime Prevention Strategy it did not necessarily raise any eyebrows.

However, this acknowledgement did offer us a useful moment to reflect on the contribution the alcohol industry has made so far and, perhaps more importantly, what we can continue to do in the future.

In the same strategy, it was heartening to see the Government recognise the valuable community role played by pubs in the UK – as well as acknowledging the healthy returns our industry creates for the exchequer The paper also notes the consistent decline in alcohol-related crime in recent years – showing that the issue is attributed to a minority of the population and more and more people are making smarter choices. I believe the drinks industry – from companies like my own, through to the pubs up and down the country – can take a share of the credit for this progress. However, we must not be complacent and we need to continue to develop new and impactful ways to make a contribution and encourage consumers to drink alcohol responsibly.


At AB InBev, we believe that providing consumers with choice is absolutely crucial if we are to make any meaningful change to the drinking culture in the UK and reduce the alcohol-related harm caused by a minority of the population. This is a view that is supported by the Local Government Association who, shortly after the publication of the Modern Crime Prevention Strategy, called on the drinks industry to produce more low-strength alcohol in order to tackle drink-related harm and ease the pressure on the pub trade. We welcome the LGA’s recognition of the role these products have to play in the market and continued innovation in the low-and-no alcohol category has real potential to help ease the problem of irresponsible consumption. Greater choice for consumers when it comes to deciding what they will drink on any given occasion should be at the heart of what we, as an industry, are looking to achieve.  

We have put a real focus on this category as part of our Global Smart Drinking Goals – one of which sets a target for 20 per cent of our global beer volumes to be low-to-no alcohol by 2025. Our own market-leading Beck’s Blue has already been making a big impact as the leading brand in the alcohol-free beer category for the last three years, contributing to over 56 per cent of the alcohol-free category in both on and off trade. At the end of 2015 we also introduced Beck’s Blue Lemon, which has already established its place in the market as a great tasting alcohol-free beer. We are committed to continual investment and innovation in this category.  

'Increasing opportunities for the industry'

This is, of course, only half of the story. Low- and no-alcohol products represent an increasing commercial opportunity for the industry with demand growing, particularly amongst the young. In December, we conducted research into the popularity of low- and no-alcohol beer and found that nearly a third of Brits have now tried alcohol-free beer. Over a fifth of millennials said they were likely to choose alcohol-free beer in January, a marked increase of 10 per cent on 2014 figures. This is welcome news for the Government, industry and pub trade alike.

Product innovation is only part of the industry’s contribution to tackling problem drinking. We also need to provide consumers with all of the information they need to make smart choices. AB InBev is doing this by giving consumers this information at their fingertips. Whether it is looking up ingredient or nutritional information via, or looking directly on-pack to find out how many units or calories are in our products, we are committed to making full product information readily available – and easily accessible. This is part of our European Consumer Information Pledge where we have committed to providing full on-pack nutritional information for 80 per cent of our European volumes by 2018. We are also investing in social marketing campaigns and funding programmes such as our partnership with the Alcohol Education Trust, to increase alcohol literacy. Access to information, alongside the option of consuming low- or no-alcohol beer allows consumers to make well-informed and smart choices about what and how much they drink.

Clearly, the Government is right to look at alcohol consumption and problem drinking as part of the solution to crime, but the reality is that the evidence already indicates a shift in behaviour, with young people moving towards a smarter, more balanced lifestyle with moderated drinking very much a part. The voluntary efforts the industry has taken have contributed significantly to this change and that on-going success in the future lies in the continued adoption of this partnership approach, particularly between drinks companies and publicans. Our success to date is proof of that.

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