The drinks industry has exceeded its target of removing one billion units of alcohol in the market two years early, a new report shows.

A report on progress made under the Government-backed Responsibility Deal found that between 2011 and 2013 1.3bn units were removed as a result of action by suppliers to reduce the ABV of their products.

Department of Health data shows the reduction has mainly been achieved by reductions in the average strength of beer, which has reduced from 4.42% in 2011 to 4.14% in 2013. This accounted for 1.2 billion of the 1.3 billion total reduction.

Average ABV has decreased in all product categories apart from spirits, where there was a slight increase from 36.85% to 36.92%.

Overall the average ABV fell from 7.49% to 7.28% between 2011 and 2013.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: “This is an incredible voluntary effort from the industry. It is yet another example of real progress being achieved by Government and industry working in partnership to promote responsible drinking and tackle alcohol misuse.

“The industry has a vital role to play in tackling harmful consumption and is committed to building on this progress and delivering on its Responsibility Deal pledges, including publishing guidance on the responsible retail of alcohol by the end of the year.”     

Suppliers that have agreed to the unit reduction pledge include AbInBev UK, Carlsberg UK, Heineken, Molson Coors, Diageo, Pernod Ricard, C&C Group and Marston’s, as well as retailers such as Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda.

Changes include ABInBev reducing the ABV of Stella Artois, Budweiser and Becks from 5% to 4.8% abv, and Heineken cutting the ABV of John Smith’s from 3.8% to 3.6%.