A French crackdown on drink-driving since the start of the year has led to a fall of around 4% in alcohol sales in the first half of 2003.

In the retail sector, figures from AC Nielsen at the end of June showed sales of spirits had fallen 3%, aniseed flavoured aperitifs by 4.5% and beers by 2.2%.

In the hotel and restaurant sector, the scale of the downturn is even more significant with the trade group UMIH pointing to a 10 to 15% decline in the consumption of these categories of drinks.

The recent heatwave has limited the dip in consumption with Pernod Ricard reporting that after a decreases of nine and 12% respectively in interim sales of its Ricard and Pastis brands, sales picked up in June.

Some industry professionals are worried that a tougher line on drink-driving has triggered a radical change in French habits towards alcohol consumption, However, others are optimistic sales will pick up again in the second half of the year pointing to a similar trend when France reduced drink-drive limits several years ago.