SABMiller says a minimum price for alcohol will hit low-income, responsible drinkers

  • Reading time:3 min(s) read

The introduction of a minimum price for alcohol will unfairly hit responsible drinkers in low-income families, while doing nothing to change the drinking habits of problem drinkers, SABMiller plc, one of the world’s leading brewers, said today (Wednesday 28 November 2012) in response to the launch of the consultation on the UK Government’s alcohol strategy.

Pointing to statistics which show that high-income consumers are the most likely to regularly drink more alcohol than the Government’s recommended weekly limit, SABMiller said a minimum price of 45p per unit would impact on lower-income responsible drinkers more.

Research looking at different types of drinker shows that:

The bottom 30 percent of households according to income (up to ?14,378 a year), have the greatest proportion of moderate drinkers1. This group tends to buy cheaper products and will be most affected by minimum pricing.
The top 20 percent (?61,958+ a year) have the greatest proportion of hazardous and harmful drinkers, yet this group spends, on average, over ?0.70 per unit of alcohol2.
The heaviest drinkers are the least responsive to changes in price3. A minimum price of 45p would lead a hazardous drinker to reduce their intake by roughly a pint of beer a week (2.7 units).
Hazardous drinkers are defined by the Government as men who drink 22-50 units a week and women who drink 15-35 units, while harmful drinkers are defined as those who drink over 50 units (for men) and over 35 (for women).

SABMiller urges the Government to look at better targeted policies which would genuinely help harmful and hazardous drinkers. Mike Short, SABMiller’s Senior Vice President of Industry Affairs, said:

“There’s a lot in the Government’s alcohol strategy which we agree with, for example local authorities being given more power to deal with anti-social drinking and a greater focus on targeted prevention programmes. As a brewer we also recognise the importance of our role in promoting sensible drinking, particularly when it comes to the responsible marketing of our products. However, we cannot support an unfair and ineffective policy which will be yet another tax on low-income responsible drinkers.”

In addition to concerns about its effectiveness as a policy, SABMiller also believes that government intervention in the market will have a number of unintended consequences for consumers. Gary Haigh, Managing Director of Miller Brands, SABMiller’s subsidiary company in the UK, said:

“If minimum pricing comes in, consumers, particularly those with a limited budget, will be faced with far less choice when they look at the supermarket shelves. ‘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. It could also make things even worse for our great British pub heritage. It’s already been badly affected by the trend towards at-home drinking and if people have a set budget they’ll have less to spend in the pub.”


Analysis by the Centre for Business and Economics Research using the Office of National Statistics General Lifestyle and Family Expenditure surveys.
London Economics, Differential Price Responsiveness among Drinker Types (a review of all public-health funded research published on the subject)