Suppliers and retailers have been curbing promotions on alcoholic drinks, cutting the number of deals by 15% and upping alcohol prices by 4%, exclusive new figures produced for The Grocer show.

Suppliers said the research demonstrated that new pricing proposals from both Labour and the Conservatives were mere "posturing politics", which would damage many responsible companies in order to try to tackle a few problem drinkers.

Last January, deals on alcoholic drinks made up a hefty 26% of all featured space supermarket promotions. This year, that has fallen to 22% [Assosia 4w/e 22 January 2010].

And, in another move set to please health campaigners, it is fresh food fruit, veg, fresh meat and dairy that has expanded to fill the space drink deals used to take up. In the big four, fresh food offers have increased from 11.5% of all offers to 14%, a solid 20% increase year-on-year.

This trend was most marked at Asda, where drink deals fell from 27% of the total to 13%, while at Morrisons, featured space dedicated to fruit and veg rose from nothing in January 2009 to 2% in the same period this year.

Separate research commissioned by The Grocer on Christmas drink pricing also scotched the myth that retail drinks prices are constantly being pushed lower. While drinks were being heavily promoted for the festive season, Brand View research on top-selling SKUs revealed that, on average, alcohol was selling for 2% to 5% more in the run-up to Christmas than the year before.

Last week, Health Secretary Andy Burnham hinted the government was considering minimum pricing to tackle "ludicrously cheap booze".

Spirits giant Diageo said over-discounting wasn't in the sector's own interests, either commercially or as a responsible business. "It is important to note that we do not set retail pricing, but spirits shoppers are important to retailers and deep discounting is not the most profitable option," said a spokeswoman.

"Minimum pricing is based on the false notion that higher prices will reduce consumption among those groups most at risk from over-consumption, although there is little evidence for this approach."

Suppliers also slammed Conservative proposals to triple tax on alcopops and double tax on cider to tackle problem drinking. "The Conservative plans just seem out of date," said one alcohol supplier. "If you look at what underage kids are drinking, they've shifted into spirits or large quantities of mainstream lager. I'm not sure the superstrength cider, beer or alcopops are fashionable to young people. It's just posturing politics."

The Association of Convenience Stores also criticised "lazy stereotyping" used by Home Secretary Alan Johnson in his speech this week on alcohol. Johnson said measures were needed to tackle "irresponsible corner shops" selling alcohol to children.

"This lazy stereotype was used despite evidence from Johnson's own department showing local shops are less likely to fail a test purchase than pubs or club," said chief executive James Lowman.

Read more
Hot Topic: Want cheap booze? Try the House of Commons (23 January 2010)
Alcohol price hikes ‘won’t put off drinkers' (4 January 2010)
Warning that booze deals endanger self-regulation (19 December 2009)