SIBA, OLN and beer consumers call on CMA to abandon high strength beer bans in the off-trade
New research, commissioned by Off Licence News (OLN) and the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), shows 45% of beer drinkers are ‘concerned’ that bans on high strength beers, that typically include crafted products from independent brewers, in nearly 100 councils are having an impact on their choice and availability in the off-trade. Over 80% of regular drinkers of high strength beer and 60% of all beer drinkers also think more campaigning from the industry needs to be done to retract these schemes.
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.
The poll of 643 beer consumers at this year’s Great British Beer Festival, highlighted that 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.
Mike Benner, managing director of the Society of Independent Brewers, that represent more than 830 independent craft 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 Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to instruct councils that have schemes in place to abandon them and stop any further schemes being established.”
A fifth of those questioned were already aware of the schemes, which are impacting independents and supermarkets across the country, but OLN and SIBA think more needs to be done to raise the awareness of the schemes. This awareness will see more people support this campaign for change.
Rosie Davenport, Group Editor at Off Licence News, said: “These results demonstrate the weight of opposition to these schemes and yet nearly 100 councils have adopted them against the public’s wishes. Consumers are understandably angered by officials preventing them from buying the beers they want to buy and are calling for action to stop these initiatives.
“Councils have a duty to protect businesses – not drive them to the wall. At a time when budget cuts are eroding services across the country, it’s astonishing that local authorities are allowed to pursue policies like this, which are opposed by consumers and are an unnecessary waste of public money.”
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.