UK alcohol consumption in 2010 remains far lower than it was six years ago, with consumption continuing to flat-line – this and a wealth of other key statistics are contained in the latest annual edition of the British Beer & Pub Association’s Statistical Handbook 2011. While there was a small 0.6% rise in UK consumption per head in 2010, drinking levels are still 11% lower than they were in 2004 when a marked decline in UK consumption began. The data also shows that the UK ranks below the European average in terms of consumption.
These figures, based on Treasury tax returns, raise serious questions about the debate on rising alcohol consumption, says the BBPA, with Chief Executive Brigid Simmonds calling for a debate firmly based on the facts when it comes to UK alcohol consumption.
Other startling findings in the new statistics are certain to raise concerns about the UK’s approach to the industry. Britons continue to pay punitive taxes on alcohol in comparison with its neighbours, and this ‘tax gap’ is growing – British alcohol taxes are now the second highest in the EU on beer and wine, and fourth highest on spirits. Currently tax policy is a threat to jobs among the million people employed in industry, says the BBPA.
The gap between British alcohol taxes and all its major neighbours grew in 2011. UK taxes are now eight times higher than France, and 11 times higher than Germany. UK taxes now outstrip those of traditional high-tax regimes in Scandinavia, with the sole exception of Finland.
Other key facts about Britain’s drinking to emerge in the new report:
• The average price of a British pub pint has broken the three pound barrier – partly due to huge tax increases.
• The North East is the cheapest region for a beer, whereas London is almost 50 per cent more expensive. The cheapest region for a glass of wine in a pub is the Midlands, whereas Wales is cheapest for spirits.
• New tables on beer and pub jobs now cover every region in Britain
• Off-trade (supermarket and shop) sales of beer now account for almost 50 per cent of total sales.
Brigid Simmonds comments: “When it comes to alcohol, we need a debate based on the hard facts. Alcohol consumption per head is 11 per cent lower than in was in 2004. Tax rates have soared to unprecedented levels at a time when household budgets are stretched. Huge, 35 per cent rises in beer taxes in the past three years have been deeply damaging to British brewers, who operate one of our most innovative and successful manufacturing industries.
“The number of those drinking above health guidelines has been falling for a number of years [ONS General Lifestyle Survey] and industry is rightly investing in responsible drinking campaigns – yet some still demand ever increasing restrictions and taxes. It’s time the debate caught up with the hard facts.”