Consumers reject Reducing The Strength schemes

02 October, 2015

The majority of consumers want more action to overturn Reducing the Strength schemes and are concerned councils are limiting the drinks they can buy.

An exclusive poll conducted by Off Licence News and the Society of Independent Brewers found that eight out of 10 beer drinkers would support a stronger push to halt the controversial initiatives, which are now in place in nearly 100 councils.

The so-called voluntary schemes require retailers to strip shelves of certain products or brands over a given alcoholic strength, typically 5.5% and above.

But in our poll of 643 beer consumers at this year’s Great British Beer Festival in August, 45% said they were concerned about the impact the schemes had on the choice and availability of products and 60% thought they should be stopped. According to the survey, 42% of respondents purchase beers over 5.5% abv or above at least once a month – with 25% of women also buying higher-strength beers with the same frequency.

Although our research captured the opinion of consumers across all age ranges from 18 years up, the drinkers with the strongest views fell in the 45–54 age bracket, where 35% said they were very concerned about the bans.

A fifth of those questioned were already aware of the schemes, which are impacting independents and supermarkets across the country, with some OLN readers reporting that they are being forced out of business.

OLN has led the charge for legal clarity over the schemes, which experts have persistently warned breach competition law. The European Commission is also continuing with its investigation after a concerted push urging them to intervene over the issue.

Mike Benner, managing director of the Society of Independent Brewers, said: “SIBA is not at all surprised to see that consumers are as concerned about these high-strength bans on beer as the craft brewers themselves. The discerning beer drinker, who enjoys the delights of certain beer styles that are necessarily brewed to higher strength to get a particular taste, feels they, the craft brewer and the off-trade retailer are being unfairly treated by these measures.”

He added: “SIBA, working with other trade organisations and OLN, will continue to press the CMA to instruct councils that have schemes in place to abandon them and stop any further schemes being established.”

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