Companies argue minimum pricing will not have the desired effect

Companies argue minimum pricing will not have the desired effect

SABMiller has warned the UK Government over “unintended consequences” that a minimum pricing on alcohol could bring. 

The brewer said that plans for a GBP0.45 minimum price, announced in a wider Home Office consultaton today (28 November), will hit “responsible drinkers in low-income families” while doing nothing to affect the habits of problem drinkers". Gary Haigh, MD of SABMiller’s UK subsidiary, Miller Brands, said people on limited budgets would be faced with less choice in supermarkets. 

“‘Own label' products are likely to disappear because they can’t compete at the same price against branded products and producers who import into the UK could pull out because it’s no longer a competitive market,” he said. 

However, Home Secretary Theresa May said today the measures are "not about stopping sensible, responsible drinking or penalising responsible shops, pubs and off-licences".

On the legality of minimum pricing, Home Office minister Damian Green, speaking on BBC Radio 4 today, insisted that the measure is legal under European law. 

However, the Scotch Whisky Association, which is involved in a legal battle with the Scottish Government over minimum pricing, reiterated that it believes the measure will fall foul of EU law. Chief executive Gavin Hewitt said: “Minimum pricing of alcohol is illegal, will be ineffective in tackling alcohol misuse, penalise responsible drinkers and put more pressure on household budgets and damage the Scotch whisky industry and therefore the wider economy.” 

The Home Office is also proposing a ban on off-trade multi-buy deals. But Accolade Wines pointed to its own research showing that a similar ban in Scotland has seen shoppers buy wine more frequently. Consumers who bought the most wine have increased their wine purchases by 1.3% since the ban, Accolade said.

Meanwhile, the frequency of wine purchases by “light shoppers” of wine has risen 34.4%, the study of 50,000 wine drinkers revealed. 

“We urge the government to pursue policies that promote the education of consumers about their alcohol consumption, not blunt instruments that do not make any real difference,” said Paul Schaafsma, Accolade's GM for UK, Ireland and AMESCA - Americas, Middle East and Sub-Continent Africa.