A recent investigation conducted by the Sun on Sunday has revealed that brewers are intentionally reducing the alcohol content of beers sold in Britain while simultaneously selling stronger versions in other European countries. This has raised concerns among campaigners who partially blame the country's higher alcohol duty for this trend.
Varying Alcohol Content for Same Brand
An example of this trend is observed with Carlsberg, which has an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 5% in Spanish supermarkets compared to just 3.8% in the UK. Surprisingly, Carlsberg costs an extra 5p per litre in Britain. Similarly, a 12-pack of 330ml bottles of Leffe Blonde is available in France with an ABV of 6.6% for £11.42, whereas in Asda in Britain, it is sold at 6% ABV for £15.
This trend is not unique to a particular brand; it can be seen across a range of popular beers.
Unsurprisingly, many consumers have expressed their disappointment with the lower alcohol content. One reviewer on the Tesco website complained about Leffe Blonde's reduced strength, stating, "It has become an ordinary beer. Very disappointed."
The British Beer and Pub Association has attributed this trend partially to the government's alcohol duty, which is now three times higher than the EU average.
Health and Social Preferences
Market experts, however, believe that the preference for weaker drinks among Brits is also a contributing factor. The shift towards healthier lifestyle choices and the desire to consume less alcohol for social reasons have made brewers respond to this changing demand.
Colin Angus, from the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, suggested that the government's duty reforms align with this trend, stating, "This is exactly the purpose of the government's duty reforms."