A cut in abvs among some beer brands is helping reduce the units of alcohol consumed in the UK

A cut in abvs among some beer brands is helping reduce the units of alcohol consumed in the UK

Falling abvs among beer brands are helping to meet an industry pledge to cut 1bn units of alcohol from UK consumption by next year, but wine and spirits have risen in strength on average.

Department of Health report, published today (28 April), showed that, between 2011 and 2012, around 253m units of alcohol were removed from products in the country. The initiative is part of the UK Government's Public Health Responsibility Deal, launched three years ago, with around 125 drinks companies signed up to the pledge.

Today's report found that, between 2011 and 2012, the average abv of beer, cider and RTDs fell by 0.06, 0.05 and 0.05 percentage points respectively.

By contrast, the average abv of spirits, rose by 0.14 percentage points. The average abv of wine increased slightly by 0.01 percentage points. 

The cut in beer abvs helped reduced unit intake among consumers by 252m, the report said. However, the increase in average abv for spirits and wine offset this by 42m units and 15m units, respectively.  

Brigid Simmonds, the British Beer & Pub Association's chief excecutive, said brewers had “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”.

She also said a 50% tax cut on beers below 2.8% abv had created an incentive for producers.

However, Simmonds bemoaned the fact that, under UK advertising laws, brewers cannot promote lower-strength brands, as an ad “cannot make a virtue of strength”.

She added: “This seems counter-intuitive and we would urge government to help us to make this change as soon as possible.” 

A number of high-profile public health bodies quit the government's Public Health Responsibility Deal last Summer in protest at the Coalition Government dropping its plan for minimum unit pricing on alcohol

Figures released earlier this month showed that UK alcohol consumption is down 18% since 2004