Wednesday 7 May 2014

Apportioning blame

The Grocer reports that the Portman Group are planning to introduce portion control for alcohol packages, preventing retailers from selling cans of beer or cider containing more than four units of alcohol, the recommended daily limit for a man, or resealable plastic bottles containing more than 15 units.

On its own, this is hardly the end of the world as, after all, there’s already plenty of legislation covering the measures in which drinks can be sold in both the on- and off-trade. If the maximum size is limited, you can always just buy two. Some years ago, confectionery companies were dissuaded from selling giant-size chocolate bars, so responded by just including two smaller bars of the same total size in a pack.

However, once again it’s a case of targeting beer and cider, when plenty of wine is sold in non-resealable bottles containing well over 4 units, and a standard bottle of spirits would prove a lethal dose for many people if all consumed at once. You can easily buy a litre bottle of own-brand sherry at 17% ABV for around £7, which is a similar price and alcohol quantity to a four-pack of Special Brew.

It also sets a disturbing precedent in that the recommendations of a private trade association are likely to be adopted by the government and built into licensing conditions. This could be regarded as restraint of trade favouring the established big companies over small producers and new entrants to the market. And it could easily have unintended consequences for strong Belgian beers which are often sold in 750ml bottles, and for farmhouse cidermakers, neither of which can be regarded as the main culprits in encouraging problem drinking.


  1. Once a beer is opened it is stale within hours.

    Wine can remain drinkable for a few days uncorked, sherry will last months, spirits years.

    Twas always going to occur the minute you saw daily limit recommendations. How can you have a responsible single portion product with more than the daily recommended?

  2. Beer and cider will keep for a few days if resealed - as will wine.

    And all these cans of Spesh say "ideal for sharing" on them. You mean to say the tramps don't?

  3. I’m sure plenty of piss heads neck a bottle of vino in one sitting, but overall few people do. The product is flat, comes with a screw cap and is good for a few days. It is shared or kept. Beer goes flat as well as stale and tends to be opened and finished. I get where you’re coming from but comparisons with other products don’t work as well as you hoped. You could argue that lower portion sizes for spesh reduce cost of the 1st or even that speciality beers that come in odd size bottles (to stand out) will be penalised. That bigger producers are attempting to implement rules to harm smaller ones under the guise of responsibility.

    When brewdog flog whisky strength beer in 330ml crown cap bottles to solitary beer enthusiasts you might also think they have a point about responsibility. Can you have a single portion unit that contains more than a recommended dose?

    What’s coming next is booze smartcards. For use in offie, supermarket or pub. Something to keep you to your unit limits. Electronic rationing for the 21st century. You can moan about it or you can accept the inevitable and cash in on the companies developing it. Learn how to program a card reader if you want to stay pissed.

  4. In the US, cheap wine is the alkie's drink of choice - hence "wino".

    As ZZ Top said,

    "Thunderbird wine's the only way to go"

  5. Pushes the cost of production up with extra packaging though. Suits those with economies of scale very nicely, I'd say.

  6. Well, yes, it's restraint of trade in the guise of social rsponsibility.

    In a similar way to how mandatory "health" labelling would deter small-batch imports.

  7. "bigger producers are attempting to implement rules to harm smaller ones under the guise of responsibility"

    I'd guess that's the only way to attempt to combat it.

  8. It's not something worth manning the barricades for - the element of concern is a trade association being allowed to make the rules.

    In fact I've argued before that, from a marketing point of view, it would make sense to sell Special Brew in 330ml cans, but this is a segment of the market that is bizarrely ossified - no promotion, no advertising, no product innovation.

    I had thought it would make sense to launch a 7.5% super lager to avoid HSBD, but nobody dared do that for fear of being labelled irresponsible.

  9. I'm not defending it but if you were the CEO of a multi-national faced with the choice of government regulation or self governance, you would choose the latter. You would also choose to be involved so as so influence the outcome in your own favour. The man what pays the piper, calls the tune.

    Industry self regulation is often a tool of large companies controlling supply chains and beating smaller competitors with a stick and creating barriers to entry.

    But when the weekly unit recommendation became a daily one, this was always the logical next step.

    The argument to combat it is that the unit recommendations are without scientific merit. The foundations to the whole shebang are the shakiest bit.

  10. First they came for the strong lager drinkers…

    This is only the start. The anti-drink zealots will move progressively on to further restrictions.

  11. First they came for those that wanted to marry close relatives, then they came for those that wanted to do unnatural things with animals, then they targeted the smokers and now it is the turn of those that want to drink large quantities of strong drink and piss in their neighbours front garden to feel the full force of the fascist LibLabCon. Liberty. Freedom. Lost in 2007. To be regained, to be regained, not only Nigels dream.

  12. "First they came for those that wanted to marry close relatives, then they came for those that wanted to do unnatural things with animals"

    The problem with those laws is that they discriminate against minorities, they are essentially meant to destroy the ancient rites and customs of wurzels and rednecks.
    Also they discriminate against humans. If a human tries to hump a goat the human goes to prison. If a goat tries to hump a human it gets shown on TV shows like "Animals do the funniest thing" - the goat does not go to prison.

  13. Cooking Lager: "I’m sure plenty of piss heads neck a bottle of vino in one sitting, but overall few people do."

    You've obviously never been to Scotland. Very common among the middle classes; indeed, screwing the cap back on a bottle of wine would be thought as very odd there...

  14. Aren't the middle classes usually sharing a bottle of wine? Mind you, I'm sure it's commonplace to ask "shall we crack open another one, then?"

  15. I have been reliably informed by my working class colleagues that the moroccan cous cous salad I had for lunch makes me middle class so I will endeavour to arride you with an answer.

    It all depends whether it's a school night and whether one can have a lie in tomorrow/the extent of that lie in and whether one wishes to sleep off a hangover or have a tumble about under the duvet or just a lonely wank in shower.

    Each permutation has an associated milliliter limit.


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