UK: Beer body stands firm on minimum pricing

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The British Beer and Pub Association has said it remains opposed to minimum pricing on alcohol, despite several of its members voicing support for the policy.

The trade body told just-drinks today (24 May) that it continues to view minimum pricing as a "blunt weapon" for tackling harmful drinking in the UK.

"We do not believe minimum pricing is the right answer," a spokesperson said, although he acknowledged that not all members of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) agree.

just-drinks sought clarity from the BBPA following news that ale brewer Greene King has joined Carling lager brewer Molson Coors UK in publicly supporting the principle of a base price for alcohol. 

Greene King CEO Rooney Anand said late last week: "Changing alcohol taxation may go some way to addressing some of these issues, but we would urge the government to explore further the minimum pricing route, which, if targeted at appropriate products, would ensure that the pensioner enjoying a glass of sherry would not be penalised, nor lovers of ale who want to enjoy a pint or two in their local or in the comfort of their own homes."

Until Tesco announced its support for minimum pricing last week, the policy had found more widespread backing in the on-trade, where brewers and pub companies in particular are unhappy about retailer discounts on alcohol.

"What we've said is, let's look at it rather than reject the idea out of hand," the CEO of Molson Coors UK, Mark Hunter, told just-drinks. "Minimum pricing is in place in Canada and we've seen how it works there, but the devil is in the detail. What does this really mean? For example, how would you connect it to excise tax?"  

Leading pub company Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), also a BBPA member, went on record earlier this month to support the Scottish Government's proposal for minimum pricing, although authorities have yet to detail how this would be implemented.

M&B rival Punch Taverns told just-drinks today that it is reviewing its position on the issue.

Other high profile companies within the BBPA, including Heineken and SABMiller, have publicly opposed minimum pricing.

There is much greater support from the BBPA and its membership, as well as from the drinks industry at large, for the new UK Government's stated intention to ban alcohol sales at "below cost".

The BBPA believes that this will be a "targeted" way of curbing problem drinking by eating into supermarket discounts. It could also reduce pressure in the on-trade, which has leaked sales to retailers over the last decade.

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