The market for “alcopops” looks like disappearing in the next few years, according to a Government health minister.
Earl Howe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health, also said the industry is making “significant progress” on alcohol under the Responsibility Deal with the Government.
During a debate in the Lords, Labour peer Lord Turnberg asked Howe if he was aware that “alcopops are rearing their heads again” and was critical of the products.
“These sweetened drinks have sugar added to them to make them attractive, in a cynical attempt to bring the young on board to alcohol. They contain more than 170 calories a bottle—about the same as a sweetened chocolate milk drink—as well as the alcohol. Is there anything we can do to bring this to the attention of the supermarkets? I believe Sainsbury’s has alcopops on its shelves now.”
Howe replied: “In fact, sales of alcopops are in marked decline, to such an extent that the market for these products looks like disappearing in the next few years.”Nevertheless, I take the noble Lord’s point. It is always a concern if people are putting their health at risk by drinking too much alcohol or consuming too much sugar.”At the same time, one should not always assume that an alcopop is a high-calorie drink. For example, ready-mixed gin and tonic is technically an alcopop, but very often low-calorie tonic goes into it.”
Another peer, Liberal Democrat Lord Taverne, asked Howe if he’d urge the industry to follow the French example and “suppress” access to “low-quality wines and other cheap drinks through pricing”.
Howe said: “In fact, 125 companies have pledged, under the Responsibility Deal, to help people drink within the guidelines. Perhaps the most significant pledge that has been made is the one by more than 30 alcohol retailers and producers to remove 1 billion units of alcohol from the market—around 2%—by the end of 2015.
”Companies, pub chains and retailers have also made a whole range of other pledges. We are making significant progress in this area.”