Monday, 25 January 2010

Peace in our time

I see that Mike Lees, Managing Director of Tennent Caledonian Breweries, has given his qualified support for minimum pricing in Scotland:

He said the company would back minimum pricing as long as the measures proposed are “fair, proportionate and part of an overall programme to reduce the abuse of alcohol”.
Ah well, that’s going to happen, isn’t it?

Of course, if you take the tobacco company approach to the alcohol industry, of running a cash cow in a slowly declining market, minimum pricing makes a lot of sense, as it protects your margins and eliminates most price competition. But it is not in the interest of consumers.
SNP MSP Michael Matheson welcomed Tennent’s backing for the proposal.

“This is indeed very welcome news,” he said. “Tennent’s understand that responsible producers have nothing to fear with minimum pricing and that only low-end, dirt-cheap alcohol will be affected.
But minimum pricing isn’t just about targeting low-end, dirt-cheap alcohol, is it? Even at 40p a unit it would lead to an increase in the price of many mainstream products. At 50p a unit it sweeps up, I would say, 80-85% of the market.

As I said before, are a £1.10 half-litre can of Stella, a £4 bottle of wine or a £12 bottle of whisky really “dirt cheap”?

I would lay money that if we ever see minimum pricing in any part of the UK, the minimum price will be increased year-on-year by more than the rate of inflation.


  1. I wouldn't take your bet. Minimum pricing would, imho, make no measurable difference to health or public order so there would be a call by the new puritans to raise the level - the policy must be right but the level wrong.

  2. Yes, as we know, minimum pricing is just the tip of a very large wedge. Once accepted, I am afraid that you are right and that the price will amazingly rise every year. All for our own good, naturally.

  3. Once sterling recovers, as it will as the European economy is a stuffed as our own with Greece on the brink of default, the prices at the Mammoth Hypermarket in Calais will once more look attractive.

    Most of the cheap grog available in Tesco was a direct reaction to the early 90’s vogue for cross channel shopping. British brewers realised capacity was being transferred overseas and supermarkets realised they were losing shoppers.

    With a weak pound they can increase the price. In a year or two expect a return of the soar away sun offer of trips to Calais for a £1; take your car over for a £5.

    It’ll be great. I can do the cheaper French brands on my blog and cover the excellent lout that is 33 export.

  4. So the next step will be a big crackdown on the amount of alcohol (and tobacco) that people are allowed to import for personal use. All in the name of Health, of course.

  5. Ye canna do that, european law my pongy ale swigging pal.

    Free movement of goods and people.

    33 export here we all come. Though one thing I've noticed about home drinking and especially buying abroad. It makes more sense to neck wine. Less bulky bang per buck for transport, cheaper bang per buck, don't have to neck as much.

    If I could get over my working class chippie attitude I'd neck more vino.

  6. “Tennent’s understand that responsible producers have nothing to fear with minimum pricing and that only low-end, dirt-cheap alcohol will be affected."

    how did he say that with a straight face? down here Tennent's is pretty much only known for being a tramp juice manufacturer...

  7. Cookie,

    Wine's fine to match with food, but if you just want to have a sesh, beer is far more satisfying.

  8. Are they under the impression that poor people are the problem but rich people are not? The whole point of minimum pricing is that those buying cheap cans of lager, own brand vodka or bottles of cheap plonk will have to pay more, but those buying a fine single malt or bottles of Château du Prétentieux won't have to pay a single penny more. Expensive alcohol is just as dangerous as cheap alcohol and rich people binge drink too.

    The fact that a manufacturer of cheap beer comes out in support of this would indicate to me that they figure it won't affect their sales enough to reduce their profits. People will have to pay more, but they won't drink less, which means families will do without something else, while the manufacturers of cheap lager can put their hands on their hearts and say the government are forcing them to charge more. Meanwhile the government will tell you it's for your own good.

  9. Oh and cookie, a suggestion for you.

    Take a tall glass, half fill with ice, pour lashings of Tesco own brand Chilean Chardonnay (£3.45 a bottle), top with lime cordial, stir and garnish with a slice of lime. That's some classy grog for ya.


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