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UK drinkers, pull your finger out!

By editorial assistant Sandi Toxic

Posted May 09, 2014
booze news

UK alcohol consumption falls to lowest level this century, BBPA stats reveal.

Some pretty shitty news came out of the UK while the Rake & Herald was busy moving into new offices.

According to stats compiled by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), the average Brit sunk just 7.7 litres of pure alcohol1 last year, the lowest level witnessed so far this century.

As well as being a national disgrace, this not only represents a 2.1% drop from 2012's figure of 7.9 litres per head, but also, says a BBPA press release, marks "the seventh year in the past nine that there has been a fall" in consumption.

No wonder the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) reports that pub closures in the UK have now risen to 28 a week.

Honestly, Britain, pull your finger out!

Anyway, the country's per capita alcohol consumption, the BBPA continues, is now a whopping 18% per cent down on that quaffed in 2004, the year when the current downward trend began and when the average Brit was enjoying 9.5 litres per annum.

Or, to put it another way, UK drinkers put away "over 7bn fewer units of alcohol" last year than they did in that golden year of 2004.

Nevertheless, on the plus side, the 2013 figure is still up 4.3% on the measly 7.4 litres consumed in 1980, so perhaps that's something to raise a pint to.

"We have now experienced a decade of falling alcohol consumption," says BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds.

"While total consumption per head is not synonymous with alcohol-related harm, these are interesting figures as the percentage of those drinking at harmful levels has also been falling, as have the number of under-18s drinking."

"The industry will continue to work to tackle alcohol misuse, but there are several encouraging trends and accurate and up-to-date figures are important for the debate around alcohol."

Nice graphic! UK alcohol consumption per capita 1980-2013. Source: BBPA

But it's not just the volume of alcohol consumed that's falling in the UK.

So too is alcohol by volume (ABV), although while I personally find this even more shocking the BBPA begs to differ.

Indeed, a second BBPA press release we received while the Rake & Herald was offline proudly proclaims that "Britain's brewers are making good progress in delivering the reduction in units of alcohol achieved to 2012 under the government's billion-unit pledge", which "aims to remove 1bn units of alcohol from UK consumption through reducing the strength of products across all drinks categories".

With three years still to go, the country's alcohol sector overall is, the BBPA says, "on target to deliver the pledge by the end of 2015".

"Our brewers are making great progress in delivering the pledge in two ways," Simmonds says.

"They have adjusted the strengths of certain products and are also being hugely innovative in bringing new, lower-strength products to market and giving consumers greater choice."

"Innovation in the tax system, with the Chancellor's 50% beer duty discount for beers below 2.8% in strength, has also created an incentive, showing the benefits to be gained by encouraging both producers and consumers with lower taxes for lower-strength drinks like beer."

"Real progress has been made despite the fact that under advertising rules brewers cannot promote lower-strength products as they cannot make a virtue of strength."

"This seems counter-intuitive and we would urge government to help us to make this change as soon as possible."

This second press release then goes on to name some of the big-boy brewers that have cut the strengths of some of their brews, such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, which has "reduced Stella Artois, Budweiser and Becks from 5% to 4.8%", and Heineken, which has cut the ABV of John Smith's from 3.8% to 3.6%.

It also notes that "the market has seen [the launch of] many new, lower-strength ales", including 2.8% Marston's Pale Ale, before quoting David Forde, Heineken's UK managing director, and a spokesperson from Molson Coors on the matter, but as I'm so completely disgusted by all this I simply can't be arsed to repeat it all.

Yeah, obviously the Rake & Herald encourages/supports/promotes responsible drinking etc and I'm also well aware of the virtues of decent 'session beers' when you're on the lash all day, but come off it.

Weak beer?

Nein danke.

Where's my Special Brew?

To read that second press release in full, have a click of this. Meanwhile, for a couple of listings of alcohol per capita around the world, click here, although as that link will send you to Wikipedia they could be a load of bollocks. Oh, and if you disagree with Sandi on any of the above, why not write us an article and maybe we'll run it? You can find our email address here.

See also UK pub closures hit 28 a week, posted 3/3/14.

Sandi Toxic
was raised by wolves inside a disused clay pit near Lanjeth. You can befriend her on FaceBook here. She is still quite feral.


1) According to the press release in question, the stats were compiled by the BBPA using data published on February 28 in the HMRC Alcohol Bulletin, which you can access here. The figures, the BBPA continues, "are based on total alcohol released into the UK market" and are therefore "not based on sampled or survey data". The BBPA, it continues, "applies average strengths to wine and cider to establish overall levels in consumption (beer and spirits are already measured in pure alcohol terms), producing data that is widely accepted and used, including by government sources and the health sector". So there.

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