Heatwave boosts pubs but alcohol ignorance threat to drivers

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Alcoholic beverage Mintel

One for the road? Stronger beers may mean just one pint is one too many
One for the road? Stronger beers may mean just one pint is one too many
The UK heatwave has boosted beer sales, as parched consumers flock to pubs, but ignorance of alcohol content could put road users’ lives at risk, says market intelligence specialist Mintel.

Chris Wisson, Mintel’s senior drinks analyst, said: “The recent good weather has provided a shot in the arm for the UK’s pub industry at a time when many consumers claim to be cutting back on drinking out of home. However, there remains a big gap in drinkers’ knowledge when it comes to understanding alcoholic drinks and units.” ​That could put lives at risk if drivers underestimated the alcholic content of drinks, he added.

As many pints exceed 5% alcohol by volume (ABV), just one pint could put someone over the legal driving limit without their knowledge, he said.

Unaware of how much alcohol

More than 80% of drinkers may be unaware of how much alcohol they consume, according to new Mintel research. Asked to rate the alcoholic unit content of a range of popular drinks, only 17% of home drinkers correctly identified a 25ml shot of spirit and mixer as containing the fewest units.

Almost one third (30%) of those surveyed wrongly identified a pint of beer or cider – containing 4.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) and about 2.6 units  – as having the fewest units.

And 20% judged a large glass of wine – rated at 12% ABV and containing three units – to contain the least units.

“This can be particularly problematic if people are driving to and from the pub, with the old adage of staying within legal driving limits by ‘only having one drink’ not being strictly true,”​ said Wisson.

Half of out of home drinkers (54%) think that there should be more information about drinking in moderation, which highlighted consumers’ knowledge gap about alcohol units. “The fact that many consumers are keen to learn more about what is in their drinks underlines the need for continued education as misunderstanding appears to be rife,” ​said Wisson.

Only 14% considered that binge drinking was in decline.

Declining on-trade footfall

The survey supplied further evidence of the trend towards trimming household budgets with 39% of monthly out-of-home drinkers reporting drinking out less often. More one-third (36%) reported cutting back on spending, reflecting the continued trend for declining on-trade footfall and switching to the cheaper in-home channel.

Nevertheless, half (51%) of out-of-home drinkers reported not changing how often they drink out or how much they spend on alcohol at the pub or restaurant (50%).

Meanwhile, the Chancellor’s 2013 Budget decisions to axe the tax escalator for beer and to cut 1p from the price of a pint was having some success in tempting people back into pubs, said Mintel. But nearly 80% of out-of-home beer drinkers did not plan to change their consumption as a result. Only 6% expected to drink more in pubs.

Despite the freeze in the price of beer, more than two-thirds (67%) of monthly out-of-home drinkers thought drinking out-of-home was too expensive. That was encouraging consumers to switch to cheaper in-home drinking.

“Beer is generally the most important drink category for pubs and the government’s decision to scrap the tax escalator has rightly been lauded,”​ said Wisson. “However, this alone is unlikely to cause a sea change in behaviour.”

While publicans cannot control the weather, they may be able to encourage people back to pubs and justify prices by focusing on good service, cleanliness and high-quality food and drinks, he added.


Drinking by numbers

  • £24bn – Value of home alcoholic drinks market, 0.3% growth.
  • £27bn – Estimated value by 2018.
  • 2.8bn – Litres of home alcoholic drinks consumption in 2013, down by 4%.
  • 2.3bn – Litres of home consumption by 2018.

Source: Mintel

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