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Responsible Drinking

Liverpool brewery leads industry in label warning about risk of excessive drinking

Cains Beer Company PLC has become the first UK brewer to respond to the Government's National Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy report by voluntarily printing alcohol advice on its new bottled beer, specifically warning against excessive drinking.

The report, published last month, revealed that binge drinking is leading to 22,000 premature deaths and costs the country £20 billion a year.

Liverpool-based Cains, which brews over 120 million pints of beer a year, has announced that the first bottles with the new labels will roll off the production line at the beginning of November. Initially, the advice will be printed on bottles of Cains 2008 Ale, which has been brewed to mark Liverpool's Capital of Culture status. All new labels printed for other Cains' beers will include the same alcohol advice.

According to the Government's report, Britain has a "culture of intoxification", with 40 per cent of visits to pubs by men resulting in binge drinking - defined as eight units or four pints. It also takes a close look at the way alcohol advertising and price promotions can affect drinking patterns.

Cains is owned by bothers Sudarghara and Ajmail Dusanj - the first Asian family to run a British brewery. They bought the firm 18 months ago and have turned around its fortunes. Cains is now one of the fastest growing breweries in the country with a £30 million annual turnover and 150 employees.

Sudarghara Dusanj hopes that now Cains has made the groundbreaking decision to provide on-label advice against binge drinking, other leading brewers will follow suit.

He said: "There's mounting pressure to tackle the issue of binge drinking in the UK. We think that brewers - along with spirit and premixed alcoholic drinks manufacturers - have a responsibility to ensure that their customers are fully informed about the risks of excessive drinking. We're leading by example and doing our bit by packaging and marketing our products in a responsible manner. It seems that our competitors are just sitting on the sidelines and getting caught up in debating the Government's definition of binge drinking rather than taking action. It's this type of indecision that could harm the industry's reputation."

Cains also believes that pub licensees and operators are often unfairly used as scapegoats and criticised for contributing to a binge drinking culture. Sudarghara Dusanj continued: "There's already a huge amount of legislation that regulates the sale of alcohol. We think that it is about time drinks manufacturers took a long and hard look at the way they are marketing their products. There are certain spirits manufacturers that are advertising their brands on television by showing people splashing around their products in a party atmosphere. They are treading a fine line and will no doubt be reconsidering their marketing strategy in light of this recent Government report.

"We don't think that the heavy drinking culture which is causing health problems in the UK can be turned around overnight. But we think it's important that the whole industry takes positive action instead of just talking about the issue. We certainly hope that other breweries follow our lead."

The advice on bottles of Cains 2008 Ale reads: 'Alcohol advice: Robert Cain supports responsible drinking. Excessive drinking can cause harm. Observe the daily guidelines for sensible drinking. Do not drink and drive.' This message will be added to all new stocks of Cains packaged products from the beginning of November.

Jean Coussins, chief executive of The Portman Group, the drinks industry body that promotes sensible drinking, supports the Cains initiative. She said: "The Portman Group is delighted that Cains Beer Company PLC is joining us in promoting responsible drinking as well as challenging excessive drinking. We have been at the forefront of this promotion through our campaigns, and welcome this initiative by Cains."

Cains is also adding health advice about drinking to its website -  to support its on-pack warning. This will include information about the Government's recommended intake of alcohol units for men and women. The company is also partnering with Liverpool City Council to launch an anti-drink driving campaign this Christmas.


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