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Britain’s Brewers On-Track In Delivering Billion Unit Reduction Pledge

• 252 million units of alcohol in beer taken out of circulation to end of 2012

• Innovation, with new, lower-strength beers

• Drinks industry on target to meet overall pledge

Britain’s brewers are making good progress in delivering the reduction in units of alcohol achieved to 2012, under the Government’s billion-unit pledge, it has been revealed today.

The pledge, to which several brewers are signed up under the Government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal, aims to remove one billion units of alcohol from UK consumption through reducing the strength of products across all drinks’ categories.

To the end of 2012, beer delivered a contribution of 252 million in unit reduction, cider 51 million and RTDs 8 million. With three years left to report, overall the alcohol sector is on target to deliver the pledge by the end of 2015. Several BBPA members, including the five largest brewers, are actively working to deliver the pledge.

“Our brewers are making great progress in delivering the pledge in two ways,” says Brigid Simmonds, BBPA Chief Executive. “They have adjusted the strengths of certain products, and are also being hugely innovative in bringing new, lower-strength products to market and giving consumers greater choice.

“Innovation in the tax system, with the Chancellor’s 50 per cent beer duty discount for beers below 2.8 per cent 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.”

“Real progress has been made despite the fact that under advertising rules, brewers cannot promote lower-strength products, as they cannot make a virtue of strength.  This seems counter-intuitive and we would urge Government to help us to make this change as soon as possible.”

When it comes to removing units from major brands,  ABInBev has reduced Stella Artois, Budweiser and Becks from 5% to 4.8% abv, and  Heineken has taken the abv of John Smith’s, from 3.8% abv to 3.6% abv, and other brewers have made similar changes.

The market has seen many new, lower-strength ales, such as Marston’s pale ale (2.8 per cent abv) and Manns Brown Ale, which continue to grow in volume, with Manns winning best no alcohol/low alcohol beer at last year’s International Beer Challenge awards.

There has also been innovation from brewers in the below 2.8 per cent category. In May 2012, Molson Coors launched Carling Zest (2.8% abv), and the company has followed up with additional flavours. Carlsberg UK has launched Carlsberg Citrus, brewed at 2.8 per cent and using a blend of natural Persian and Key limes. Heineken launched Fosters Radler in 2013, at just 2 per cent abv, a new drink that combines lager with cloudy lemon.

David Forde, UK Managing Director for HEINEKEN comments:

“We are very pleased that, together with our fellow brewers, we have been able to deliver our commitment on unit reduction. In 2011, HEINEKEN set an ambitious target to remove 100 million alcohol units from the UK market. We’ve already beaten that target; both through our focus on developing new drinks for the growing moderation segment; and reducing the ABV of John Smith’s and Strongbow.

“Our commitment continues as we expand the choice of zero and lower alcohol options across our portfolio in 2014, so that drinkers are better able to enjoy the right drink for the right occasion without sacrificing taste or refreshment.

A Molson Coors spokesperson adds:

“Molson Coors recognises that respect for alcohol is essential to its proper, responsible enjoyment.  We are committed to developing lower ABV beers, which meet a growing consumer desire for lighter products that fit with changing lifestyles and tastes. We believe our leadership in this area has served as a catalyst for the industry to create more lower-strength beers.”

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