Alcohol is commonplace in our society and the vast majority of people (78%) drink within Government guidelines. Nationally, alcohol consumption is falling and levels of binge drinking are at the lowest recorded levels amongst young people with significantly fewer children trying alcohol compared to their peers of ten years ago.
But there are still too many misusing alcohol. Drinks producers and retailers are determined to help reduce these harms. Profit and social responsibility are not mutually exclusive and frankly, the industry’s sustainable future depends on it playing its part. But we need to do this in partnership with the Government, parents and employers.
And that’s why the Public Health Responsibility Deal (RD) is such an effective framework. One year in, the momentum is really building and pledges are coming thick and fast.
I am delighted to say that drinks producers’ promise to feature responsible drinking information on 80 per cent of alcohol labels on shelf by 2013 is well on track. Latest industry data shows that over 60% of current product labels are compliant and feature the three core elements (unit content, Government sensible drinking guidelines and a warning about alcohol and pregnancy).
This is fantastic progress and we still have 18 months to go. I am confident that we can reach the 80% target and now is the time for any drinks producers who haven’t yet signed up to be doing so quickly.
It’s not just labelling that is forging ahead. British consumers now have clearer information than ever about the alcohol content in their drinks and the Government’s sensible drinking guidelines thanks to new in-store displays and information campaigns in pubs and bars.
And the Deal is proving to be a great catalyst for market innovation. The lower alcohol pledge is being spearheaded by 35 leading companies. They have pledged to provide a greater choice of lower strength alcohol products, smaller measures and increase promotional activity to inform people about the lower and no alcohol products available.
And it doesn’t stop there. This pledge opens the way for innovation in both the on-trade (bars/clubs) and off-trade (retail), such as introducing lighter house wines as standard and featuring lower alcohol choices more prominently in stores and venues. I would love to see more companies from these sectors signing up to the lower alcohol pledge and innovating in the same way.
Looking ahead, there will be ongoing support for local schemes. This is even more important as we know levels of harm are not consistent across the UK – it seems to be disproportionately clustered in some areas – particularly in the North West and North East of England. The local community pledge will help areas address their social and health harms through industry funded schemes such as Best Bar None, Pubwatch, Community Alcohol Partnerships and Business Improvement Districts.
It is so encouraging to see the momentum behind the Responsibility Deal and that’s just one year in from its launch. The beauty of this framework is that it keeps on growing as more organisations get involved and show their leadership through tangible action. If you’re not part of it yet please do get involved.