The mults encouraged shoppers to drink up over the Easter bank holiday before the government called time on cheap alcohol promotions.

With the Home Office setting out proposals to crack down on binge drinking by introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol in the Alcohol Strategy published last month, at least two supermarket chains have openly supported the proposed legislation, while all have signed up to the government’s Responsibility Deal.

But over the key Easter bank holiday period, none showed signs of laying off the deals before minimum pricing is enshrined in law.
Last week, Asda ran a national press campaign for “low prices for the bank holiday”. All the beer, cider and spirits in the advertisement cost less than the mooted 40p per unit minimum price.

Asda has previously looked to lead the industry in responsible alcohol retailing by removing alcohol from foyers and signing up to the government’s Responsibility Deal. In 2010, CEO Andy Clarke wrote to the home secretary to call for a floor price in alcohol. “But words count for nothing without actions, so from today (20 July 2010) it will be Asda’s policy in all our stores not to sell alcohol to the public below the cost of duty plus VAT,” he wrote.

Some of Tesco’s deals were even cheaper. While promising to support the introduction of minimum pricing, it ran a three for £22 multibuy promotion across lager and cider. Twenty of the 35 brands in the promo cost under 40p per unit. Three cases of 15 cans of Becks Vier included in the deal would have to cost at least £31.68.

And the Co-op Group, which backed minimum pricing in conjunction with other measures, sold 10 cans of Strongbow for £7. Under the government’s proposals, the minimum price would be £9.33.

An Asda spokeswoman said it was “arbitrary” to ask whether it supported minimum unit pricing and if it would adopt the policy as its own because the government hasn’t launched the consultation or published the Bill yet. “We await the government consultation with interest,” she added.

But Emily Robinson, campaigns director at Alcohol Concern, said the deals “highlight the exact problem we’re trying to combat” and called on responsible retailers to “take the lead” by acting on the proposals now.

Andrew Langford, CEO of the British Liver Trust, said supermarkets would not embrace the proposed measures until forced to. “For too long, supermarkets have been allowed to remove restrictions on promotions and access.

“We are firm that alcohol should not be used to drive footfall in to any store,” he added.

How Easter lager and cider deals would fare under proposed 40p minimum price regime


Foster’s, 20x440ml
Deal: £12 Was: £15.98
With minimum pricing: £14.08

The Co-operative Group
Strongbow, 10x440ml
Deal: £7 Was: £7.50
With minimum pricing: £9.33

Carling, 15x440ml
Deal: 3 for £25 Was: £41.37
With minimum pricing: £31.36

Becks Vier, 15x440ml
Deal: 3 for £22 Was: £27
With minimum pricing: £31.68