Below-cost alcohol sales 'irresponsible'

 

THE MARKETING of alcohol by some retailers has become “absolutely irresponsible” and its sale at prices far lower than in the past “needs to be addressed”, according to the chief executive of drinks industry-funded organisation Meas (Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society).

Fionnuala Sheehan was speaking at the announcement yesterday of a competition, dare2bdrinkaware.ie, inviting third-level students to make a short film exploring the theme of drinking at home.

She is also chief executive of drinkaware.ie, which is running the competition.

“There has been a dramatic rise in home drinking in recent years, with particular effects for college students perhaps living away from home for the first time and caught up in the social aspects of student life,” she said.

“We are inviting them to explore their relationship with alcohol and to tell their story through their media.”

She said that while in 2003, about 70 per cent of alcohol was consumed in pubs and clubs, the proportion now is “about 40 per cent”.

Asked whether below-cost selling in retail outlets was not a greater factor in the increase in home-drinking, she said the issue was “complex” and there were issues with identifying what precisely was “below-cost” with alcohol.

She said, however, that her organisation had raised concerns in 2005 about the inclusion of alcohol in the repeal of the Groceries Order.

“We said it would lead to a price war on alcohol,” Ms Sheehan added. “We do need to look at the way price is being used on alcohol to win market share on other goods. We also need to look at the message that is being communicated about alcohol in merchandising.

“These offers of ‘buy 12 cans, get 12 free’, are absolutely irresponsible. The message is completely the opposite to the one we should be pushing, about enjoying alcohol in moderation and responsibly.

“It is not like other foodstuffs.”

Details of the competition, which has a €5,000 prize fund, are available at www.dare2bdrinkaware.ie