Heavy booze promotions could cost the drinks industry its self-regulated status, brewer Heineken UK warned this week.

The company said it was concerned about how "the government and socio-political agenda" would react to the increased number of promotions. Deals on beer are up 66% compared with Christmas 2008 and cider promotions have rocketed 153% [Assosia].

"If retailers continue to invest in cheaper alcohol it will attract government intervention. We have to be mindful that the government can take away self-regulation," said Heineken UK off-trade MD Mark Gerken. "While the industry is expressing concern about pricing and responsible retailing, the government is trying to balance its books and BWS could be perceived as a 'soft target'."

Closer collaboration between retailers and suppliers on the mechanics of promotions was required to avoid government intervention on minimum pricing, he warned.

His comments came as Heineken UK revealed it was delisting its controversial high-strength White Lightning cider from 31 March to help improve the company's stance on responsible drinking.

Despite lowering the amount of alcohol in the drink from 7.5% abv to 5.5% in March 2008, none of the brand's competitors had followed suit and so the "negative, park bench mentality" of white cider remained, said Gerken.

Heineken UK would instead up marketing investment in Strongbow by 30% next year to capitalise on the 22% value growth of the brand [Nielsen, 52 w/e 3 October].