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< Back to news 11 November, 2016

Drink-Drive Legislation: Changing Limits Affects Sales

Learn from Scotland to avoid the pitfalls that could come with a new drink drive legislation. This Alcohol Awareness Week, we're encouraging operators to learn from Scotland and implement a low or non-alcoholic range to pre-empt the potential introduction of a lower drink-drive limit in England and Wales. The drink drive limit in Scotland was lowered in December 2014 from 100mg to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

Beacon worked with businesses in Scotland to support them during the legislation change in 2014/15, with many reporting losses in alcohol sales between 60% and 90%. Insight from Heineken UK, a leading drinks supplier to Beacon, shows that alcohol sales in Scotland plummeted by 7% in the 12 weeks following the introduction of the new legislation.

Kelley Walker, Category Manager for Drinks at Beacon, said: “The move to lower the drink drive limit should be seen as a positive thing, making our roads safer, but for businesses it is vital to plan ahead early. When the legislation was introduced in Scotland businesses that were under-prepared suffered dramatic early losses and we worked hard to reduce sustained sales falls by offering advice on serving sizes, food options and non-alcoholic ranges to adapt to behaviour changes in the bar.

“Two years on the Scottish market is slowly returning to normal but the lesson for businesses in England and Wales is to prepare early because if the recommendation from the Police Federation to lower the limit comes into force we know from experience that businesses that don’t prepare properly can suffer significant falls in sales.”  

Heineken UK has worked to support thousands of Scottish businesses through the legislation changes. James Moore, National On Trade Category Activation Manager, commented on the potential impact of a legislation change in England and Wales: “There is no doubt that the Scottish alcohol market suffered in the time that followed the legislation change and is only just returning to normal. Looking at England and Wales, it’s important to consider the differences in consumers, outlets and occasions in order to effectively predict the outcome of a potential fall in the drink drive limit.

“Consumer behaviour in England and Wales compared to Scotland has an important part to play, with less traditional pub drinking, more food occasions and consumers that go out more often but drink less, meaning that the risk that comes with a new drink legislation is potentially lower – with the right preparation.

“Although nothing is confirmed for the new legislation to come to England and Wales, we forecast a loss of 127m pints from the on-trade should it occur. Advice throughout the industry is to be proactive and prepare for the changes, rather than reacting to them when it is too late.”

Based on its own research and insight from Scotland, as well as support from Heineken UK, Beacon is offering its advice for operators to combat the negative implications that could come with a change in the law:

Lagers and ciders

Data from Heineken shows that classic lager and cider were hit hardest when the new drink drive limit came into force, seeing a fall of 13.5% in sales, while low and non-alcoholic alternatives soared in popularity. Many drinks suppliers now offer low or non-alcoholic versions of classic beers and ciders, so its highly recommended to stock these behind the bar.

Serving sizes

One major change that was seen in Scotland was the use of different serving sizes. Offering a schooner – two thirds of a pint – is a good way to cater to consumers who want to enjoy a drink before driving, as it won’t put them over the lower limit.

Food offering

Rural venues in Scotland were hit hardest in 2014, according to Heineken data. Since then, we have seen rural venues that have implemented a quality food offering recovering well. The advice to wet-led outlets in England and Wales is to invest in a food offering now. The short-term investment may be high but it will be worth it long term.