Year on year, we are drinking less and moderating our alcohol intake. According to Government tracked date, 79% of UK adults either do not drink or stick within the Chief Medical Officer lower risk guidelines – 79% in England, 77% in Scotland, 83% in Wales and 80% in Northern Ireland¹. Since 2004, annual alcohol consumption in the UK has fallen by 15%, declining from 11.55 litres of pure alcohol in 2004 to 9.8 litres in 2019². The effect can be seen through the generations with younger generations drinking less and more moderately – learn more here.
These trends are the result of lifestyle and behavioural changes in UK society as many of us seek to make healthier choices. This has been supported by industry actions, which have had a significant part to play in helping educate consumers, ensuring information is displayed on labelling, and promoting responsible alcohol practices through industry campaigns and in partnership with Government. In this blog we take a deep dive into some of these industry-funded initiatives that are helping drive this moderate drinking trend.
Founded in 2006, Drinkaware is an independent alcohol education charity. It’s aim is to provide impartial, evidence-based information, advice and practical resources; raising awareness of alcohol and its harms and working collaboratively with partners. It is funded by unrestricted voluntary donations from more than 120 organisations, including UK alcohol producers, retailers, supermarkets, venues, restaurant groups and sports associations.
One way in which Drinkaware helps consumers cut down is through its free MyDrinkaware App. It helps track a person’s alcohol consumption, calculate units and calories and set goals to help them moderate their drinking. By tracking units, calories and sleep quality, side-by-side, MyDrinkaware can guide the user towards a healthier lifestyle that works for them. To learn more and to download the app, click here.
Following an incredibly successful joint campaign with Public Health England in 2018 to incorporate ‘drink-free days’ into our week, many of us still follow this plan to help us moderate or cut down our consumption of alcohol.
And finally, another useful tool Drinkaware provides is its Unit and Calorie Calculator, which can calculate unit and calories for one or more drinks and across the week. Learn more and try it out here.
These are just a few examples of the abundance of support Drinkaware provides in helping to educate consumers and encourage moderate drinking. More information of the rest of its work and campaigns can be found on its website here.
Since the Public Health Responsibility Deal, the Portman Group has been responsible for the for the best practice guidance for communicating alcohol and health-related information. The Alcohol Labelling Guidelines set the minimum recommended best practice elements for product labelling, which includes the 2016 CMO Low Risk Drinking Guidelines, provision of unit information, a pregnancy message or symbol, and a direction to Drinkaware so consumers can learn more about the facts about alcohol and make more informed choices.
The Guidance builds on over a decade of success in improving access to information, resulting in more than 99% of products containing a pregnancy warning message or logo, 94% demonstrating unit content, 93% displaying a Drinkaware or responsibility message, and almost four in five (79%) carrying the latest UK Chief Medical Officer low risk drinking guidelines³. These figures are expected to be improved upon and no doubt we will see this in our next Market Review in 2024.
More information on the updated guidance can be found here.
SWA’s Made to be Measured campaign
Launched in March 2023 by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), Made to be Measured aims to raise awareness of the alcohol content of drinks and the recommended weekly guidelines (units). As Scotland’s national drink, carefully crafted and only released after many years of maturation in warehouses across the country, Scotch Whisky is there to be savoured and enjoyed responsibly. The campaign, aimed at adults in Scotland, will run across a range of digital and consumer platforms, all using creative advertising to help convey and clarify the units within Scotch Whisky and other alcoholic drinks.
In September 2023, the Scottish Government pledged its support for the campaign ahead of the festive period, as the First Minister met the SWA’s governing Council to discuss how the industry and government can work in partnership.
To learn more about the campaign, visit the SWA’s website here.
Low and no alcohol alternatives
Availability and consumption of low and no alcohol alternatives has grown significantly in recent years. For five years now, the Portman Group has run a survey with YouGov to look at UK public attitudes to low and no alcohol alternatives.
In our most recent survey in January 2023, we found 29% of UK drinkers now ‘semiregularly’* consume low and no alcohol products (29%), with 21% saying that their weekly consumption had decreased since first trying a low and no alcohol alternative**. For the fifth year in a row, the most cited reasons (57% of respondents) for why consumers choose low and no alcohol are to drive home and not drink excessively at social events.
Our research continues to tell a positive story of how low and no products have become part of UK consumer buying habits. Five years of polling have given us a substantial data set to reflect and build conclusions. It shows how these products are by and large bought by current alcohol drinkers across all age groups, as a key tool for moderation and responsible drinking.
To learn more about our survey and read about the findings from our latest edition, visit our website here.
It is important that we keep driving forward approaches which help people to moderate their drinking. In working with Governments and partners, we can anticipate that the trend to moderate will continue as more people join an ever more responsible drinking environment.
- Health Survey for England, December 2022 / Scottish Health Survey, November 2022/ National Survey for Wales, July 2023 / Health Survey Northern Ireland, December 2020
- WHO, May 2021
- Portman Group, Market Review, September 2021– research of June/July 2021)
* Incorporating those who responded drinking low and no alcohol either ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’).
** Removing those who did not drink alcohol before first trying a low/no alternative.