The government is proposing a 40p minimum price per unit of alcohol across England and Wales. How would that affect the 5,000 drink deals in UK supermarkets?

The government’s minimum price for alcohol could increase the price of more than one in five of all high-profile supermarket drink deals, analysis by the Guardian suggests.

Using data obtained from research consultancy Assosia, the Guardian has analysed more than 5,000 drinks deals on offer across December, January and February in the four major supermarkets – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – plus the Co-operative.

More than 1,000 of these offers were at a price below 40p a unit, the level of the new proposed floor price for alcohol, and so would not be allowed under the new rules, which are set to take effect in 2014 after a consultation.

Cider, which attracts less duty than beer, would often be particularly affected, with some deals almost doubling in price: a £20 deal for two packs of 20 cans of Strongbow would draw a minimum price of more than £37.

Hundreds of deals on beer would be affected, with cut-price deals on premium 5% lagers more likely to fall foul of the rules than weaker 4% varieties such as Fosters and Carling.

The research also suggests Asda’s popular 3-for-£10 deal on wine would be affected by the promotion, though only by a slight margin: the selling price of £3.33 per bottle would be slightly lower than the £3.60 minimum required for a bottle of 12% ABV.

Government analysis suggests the measures could add substantially to the cost of alcohol for heavy drinkers:

The government says the cost of the minimum price for the average drinker will be just £21-£23 a year. For moderate drinkers (drinking within recommended limits of up to 21 units a week for men and 14 units for women) the cost will be only £5-£6 a year. Heavy drinkers (drinking far above the recommended limit – more than 50 units a week for men and 35 for women) face a cost of between £105-£135 a year.

Data showing the lowest price observed by researchers of each product among the 1,075 affected deals is shown in the table below, alongside what the price would increase to under the government proposals.

It was collected by researchers entering stores each week with handheld scanners, then manually recording details, a process which is on rare occasion subject to human error.

In a small number of cases where a specific ABV could not be found in the wines category, an estimate of 12% – slightly below the average alcohol level in UK wine – was used. This may, in some instances, affect whether an item would fall below the proposed minimum price or not.

Prices shown are “unit prices” – so a 3-for-£10 multibuy, for example, would show a unit price of £3.33 per bottle.

Which changes are surprising? What seems fair, or unfair? Will the changes affect how you buy alcohol at the supermarket? Let us know in the comments below.

Published in The Guardian, 23 March 2012

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