Carlsberg IO_06200

This week, Augustiner Bräu, Munich’s oldest brewer, caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth among beer purists as it released its first alcohol-free lager, joining a long list that have taken the plunge amid a chronic decline in beer consumption. And can you blame them when the most successful low & no brews have been rewarded with strong sales growth.

Good for them you might think. And good for consumers too. Studies from The Portman Group and Club Soda have shown alcohol-free products to be an effective way to reduce harmful consumption of alcohol. And consumers increasingly want them: low & no volumes are up 12.5% [NIQ 52 we 20 January].

So the decision by Sheffield council to ban booze brands from advertising low and no variants on authority-owned billboards, affecting nine of the top 10 brands, is utterly baffling.

Read more:

We’ve seen local councils take matters into their own hands before when it comes to the health of the nation. Sadiq Khan’s junk food ad ban on TFL springs to mind. But at least that move – like HFSS rules in supermarkets – was made on genuine health grounds.

Here, the council has done so on the basis that consumers can’t distinguish between alcohol-free products and their full-strength counterparts, and that booze giants are using ‘alibi’ marketing as a legal loophole to nefariously advertise to children and vulnerable adults. The first such ban was adopted in Norway but evidently it’s struck a chord with local councillors here in the UK. It’s a ridiculous move, a conspiracy theory too far. Let’s hope it doesn’t catch on with other councils. As we saw with the TFL ad ban they tend to follow like lemmings.