The COVID-19 crisis has had an unprecedented impact on society, with so many of the structures of support that we normally rely on having been removed. Despite these challenges, UK alcohol producers have sought to play a positive role in society, taking action wherever possible to protect the nation’s health, strengthen our local communities and support the wider hospitality industry.

This concerted action includes the production of hundreds of thousands of litres of hand sanitisers, funding for a variety of community groups, suspending the collection of pub rents and supporting the wages of bar staff  – read more.

The public are still drinking moderately

Since the lockdown began, the vast majority of people in the UK have continued to drink responsibly, recognising that for many having a drink is an enjoyable, sociable activity and a pleasant way to share an experience. Numerous surveys have shown that around 4 in 5 British consumers are drinking the same or less during the lockdown as they did before it. We also know that around 80% of UK adults either don’t drink or stay within the UK CMOs’ low risk weekly guidance – with around 3-4% drinking at potentially hazardous levels. Of the 20% whose drinking has increased during lockdown, there appears to be a strong overlap with those already drinking at increased or harmful levels.

Some commentators have pointed to a rise in shop sales of alcohol as evidence of a rise in drinking.  While there is clearly a difference between purchasing and consumption – we know many people have reverted to a weekly or fortnightly shop, preferring to stock up and minimise trips out – it also reflects a shift in demand away from pubs, bars and restaurants and into the home. Increased off-trade sales fall far short of offsetting the collapse in demand in alcohol sales with beer sales, for example, down 12.7% overall compared to last year – read more.

The way people socialise and drink is inevitably changing

The lockdown is changing many aspects of our lives. Across the country people are finding innovative ways to connect and engage with friends and loved ones, often replacing the trip to the pub, bar or restaurant with a virtual quiz, party or even date.

There has been a significant uplift in low and no sales. The latest figures from Kantar show that sales of low and no alcohol products at supermarkets and off-license have increased 18% in 2020 compared to the first quarter of 2019, with a rise of 32.5% immediately prior to lockdown, showing how much these products have become a new part of many Brits’ responsible drinking habits.

Continuing to improve the UK’s responsible drinking levels

The UK is on an ongoing journey improving its responsible drinking rates. Alcohol misuse is in prolonged decline and young people are more health conscious than ever before with the low and no category is booming. The 2018 World Health Organisation world status survey on alcohol and health put the UK in the lower half of 30 European countries based on levels of alcohol consumed per capita in 18th place – drinking less per person than our neighbours in France, Germany and Ireland.

It remains a journey and there is more for the UK to do but we welcome the progress that has been made and continue to work with both Government and wider public health community to support further steps to responsible drinking among all UK consumers.

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