Minimum Pricing on Alcohol – the consumer view

You may have been reading about Alcohol Minimum Pricing in the news recently.

Ministers are proposing a minimum price of 45p a unit for the sale of alcohol in England and Wales as part of a drive to tackle problem drinking

At Marketing Sciences we have been watching this issue with interest for some time now, ever since this idea was first proposed by Government back in 2010. Recent proposals appear to have been met with scepticism and opposition from the industry, with the feeling that the policy does not target problem drinkers, but simply hits everyone, even those who drink responsibly.

Source: BBC News

We wanted to know what the consumer view was likely to be on an introduction of minimum pricing, and in August 2010 we carried out 20 in-depth interviews with consumers, and 2,000 nationally representative surveys via our online omnibus.

Even back in 2010, the results showed that awareness was surprisingly high on the pricing debate – 84% of consumers were aware of the debate at that point. The Scottish Government was among the first to announce proposals, and subsequently awareness was significantly higher in Scotland than the rest of the UK.

What is interesting is that, when thinking about their own behaviour, most consumers believe that they do not currently buy ‘a lot’ of alcohol and that minimum pricing would not affect how they buy. When thinking about the minimum pricing, there was a tendency to view how the pricing may affect other people.

However, even in 2010, most consumers were not in favour of the policy.

“Alcohol is not a danger to me, why should I pay more because a minority abuse it?”

The positive points of the policy were few, although some consumers thought the main benefit might be for young people who buy ‘cheap alcohol’

We were interested in what consumers even classify as cheap alcohol. Is it supermarket booze? Pub prices? Consumers say that the main culprit for overly-cheap alcohol is the multi-pack, special offer that many supermarkets sell. Furthermore, consumers are much more likely to think of certain brands as always being on promotion – and therefore are they lower in quality?

Consumers are not concerned by the affect minimum pricing may have on the Big Four Supermarkets – the feeling is that these shops will easily absorb any potential loss of sales & profit as a consequence of the possible reduction in sales of alcohol.

Overall though, consumers felts that Government intervention on pricing is not necessarily the right way to tackle the problem of binge drinking. “Are we going to be fined for putting three sugars in our tea?”

Some alternatives they suggested include: Education, the provision of cheap healthier products (we also researched a potential ‘fat tax’ too – see blog article here) and capping prices on gym membership

What are your views on alcohol minimum pricing?

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Amy Nichols
01962 842211
Article date - 03/12/2012
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