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Following the facts

On 25/04/14 by Steve Livens (Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain)

I don’t know if you would have noticed it but there was an excellent article published in The Sun at the end of March; ‘Will your loaf leave you brown bread?’ The article itself delivered a fascinating insight into the consumption of wholemeal bread as a cause of dementia, breast cancer, headaches, stroke, diabetes, bloating, kidney cancer and loss in libido!

This article quickly followed from another triumph in the delivery of factual, nutritional information, published about a month earlier, which threw the spotlight on the hidden sugars in alcoholic beverages and in particular the alleged nine-and-a-half teaspoons, nearly 40 grams, of sugar that can be found in a pint of bitter. Imagine!

‘Educating’ consumers about the dietary risks associated with everyday, common foods it seems is the current game of choice, not that this is a new game, of course. However the irresponsible and inaccurate communication of nutritional ‘dangers’ is damaging and ultimately does nothing to educate consumers or make them aware of where there may indeed be some benefit from exercising moderation when it comes to dietary choice.
Perhaps more concerning is the degree of confusion and misunderstanding that such headline-grabbing approaches inspire, further preventing people from understanding complex issues and making informed and sensible decisions about their diet or lifestyle.

Such a position formed a central concern by members of the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research (ISFAR) earlier this year as part of a critique of the World Health Organisations ‘World Cancer Report 2014’. Members of the scientific forum called for ‘a balanced message on alcohol and health’ and found that ‘the WHO seriously undermines its credibility by publishing a report that seems to deliberately ignore overwhelming scientific evidence showing that light-to-moderate consumption of alcohol not only reduces overall mortality but is usually not associated with an increased risk of cancer.’

Despite the obvious need for more objective and informative education around public health issues, media campaigns continue to present unbalanced information with a focus on the shock factor or which simply fail to identify the serious risks associated with alcohol abuse and heavy consumption. Such approaches also commonly focus on increased risk but often fail to realise the context within which it is important to view such risk. Another statement by ISFAR shows that 'Of all lifestyle factors related to cancer, alcohol is a modest attributable risk at 4-6%, while the attributable risk for cigarette smoking is approximately 30% and that for diet and sedentary lifestyles is 20-50%’

Claims that there is clear, scientific consensus around the globe of the risks associated with increasing alcohol intake and cancer formation are simply not true. Whilst undoubtedly the public health community will continue to argue that this is so, there is an undeniable lack of agreement since the confounding factors associated with possible cause are too great and actual causative mechanisms are simply not fully understood.

By example, a paper by Klatsky et al. published this month in the journal ‘Cancer Causes and Control’ reports that underreporting of heavy alcohol consumption is skewing data that would imply an increased cancer risk from moderate alcohol consumption. Indeed, much of what is understood about the relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer risk is only associated with heavy, immoderate consumption.

However, what cannot be ignored is the growing scientific consensus that regular, moderate alcohol consumption actually confers an overall net benefit in terms of reduced mortality risk. Here, there is clear evidence that those who drink moderate amounts of alcohol on a regular basis, stand to live longer than those who either drink nothing at all or those who drink excessively.
Clearly, the importance of conveying clear and accurate information about the true nature of alcohol is vital to help the public make informed and sensible decisions about consumption.
Watching the BBC news this week, I can’t help but wonder whether the inferred consequence of higher prices associated with alcohol as a factor of the declining incidences of violent crime in the UK are the whole story. The brewing industry has certainly made concerted efforts and significant investment to be responsible in their approach to alcohol marketing and through their support for educational programs around the world which aim to teach young people about the risks of alcohol abuse.

When all is said and done, the most valuable lessons that I have learnt about alcohol and the importance of moderation were taught to me by a head brewer and not the media or the health sector.

Steve Livens
Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain


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Alcohol policy. Moving beyond the evidence-base...?

On 11/04/14 by Andy Tighe (Policy Director)

A number of recent reports, conferences and proposals have questioned whether in a desire to ‘do more’ and ‘go further’ to foster the culture of responsible drinking in the UK that we all aspire to, we are moving well beyond what is rational, evidence-based policies. This ultimately risks being counter-productive and damaging.

The rush of local authorities and police forces to promote schemes ‘banning’ stronger beers and ciders following the apparent success of the “reduce the strength” campaign in Ipswich is a worrying example of this. Putting aside concerns around competition and licensing law issues, the logic appears flawed in many cases. In Ipswich, following a number of deaths among street drinkers, seventy-five individuals were identified with an ambition to try and accelerate getting these individuals into treatment programmes and provide the necessary support to help them with their alcohol addiction.

This was called the Start Afresh programme with a thirty-six point action plan. Removing from shelves the products favoured by street drinkers was one such action and seen as a way to help facilitate engagement by either these individuals switching to drinking lower-alcohol products (and so be more coherent when approached by support workers) or realise that rather than trek to somewhere that did still stock these drinks this could be the trigger to seek treatment for their addiction.

Out of all the thirty-six measures put in place, this was the one measure that appears to make the least sense yet has caught on as the ultimate panacea. There are many other products of equal strength (e.g. British wines) or much greater strength (table wines and spirits) that can still be purchased with no problem. Despite the fact that street drinkers may prefer cans of strong lagers and PET bottles of strong cider for convenience and price – to think that these products somehow cause a different effect than the same quantity of alcohol (or indeed a greater concentration of alcohol) in other drinks, or indeed that someone with a serious addiction will simply not just buy a bottle of cheap wine or sherry or a small bottle of vodka, is very difficult to believe. If one were being cynical you might think the attraction of this one measure is that it appears to be a cost-free.

Perhaps equally concerning is a proposal to somehow enshrine in law a restriction on the maximum amount of alcohol in a particular package format...four alcohol units in a can and fifteen units in a PET bottle...on what evidence and where does this end? If, as is suggested, this is to help people drink within recommended daily limits then where does fifteen come from or, if this is also primarily aimed at street drinkers, are they really going to stop at one (now slightly cheaper) can to stay within the Government guidelines or consume their bottle of cider over three to four days?
For brand owners and retailers to take action to help reduce the harmful use of alcohol is hugely important and should be strongly encouraged. If this involves reducing the strength of certain products, looking carefully at product portfolios and their appeal and even packaging then this is great and as it should be. Providing a greater choice of lower-alcohol products and encouraging the production and consumption of such products can also only help and can make a significant difference.

But seeking to ban certain beers/ciders or mandate the total units for certain package this really where the focus should be?

Next it will be perfectly acceptable to misrepresent science and scare people in to thinking that having a beer whilst cooking dinner is likely to result in a cancer tumour..but that’s a blog for another day.

Andy Tighe
Policy Director


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Three Red Lions on a Shirt – pubs celebrate World Cup boost

On 04/04/14 by Jim Cathcart (Policy Manager - Pub Operations)

The trade was celebrating this week, as the Government announced the results of the recent consultation into extending licensing hours for England’s World Cup matches.

The result was extending hours until 1am to let fans watch Hodgson’s men take on the Italians down their local on Saturday 14th June, kicking off at 11pm. The second group match pits England against World Cup legends Uruguay on Thursday 14th June (8pm) and pubs showing the match will be able to open until midnight. The Costa Rica match kicks off at 5pm and as such normal hours will apply on 24th June.

Once England make it to the second round (don’t stop believing) the extended hours will kick in again as these matches start at 9pm – meaning pubs could stay open until 1am. The two dates that England could potentially play are the 28th or 29th June depending on our final position in the group. It is worth noting that this will only apply if England actually play, so it is worth planning ahead with TENs for these - and of course all the other late kick off matches not involving Roy’s Boys.

Sadly the extension does not apply to Wales, with the reason given by the Home Office that it was not of enough significance to anyone wishing to watch the matches in a Welsh pub. This is despite the fact the majority of those responding to the consultation wanted it to apply to both countries - perhaps a Moyes-esque protest involving a Welsh plane and banner over Downing Street could see the Government change their mind on this.

The four hour extension is important to allow safe and managed dispersal from premises after the game to prevent an influx of customers into the street as soon as England are cruelly defeated on penalties. In terms of management of premises during the World Cup, the industry has a wealth of experience in dealing with major broadcast sporting events on a regular basis. Ahead of the 2014 World Cup the BBPA has published guidance for operators developed with the support of the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). The guidance is intended as a template for pubs, local authorities and police to work together to ensure that the World Cup is a successful and enjoyable occasion. It provides a handy checklist for licensees to run through in making sure all angles to running a successful event are considered and covered. The guidance is freely available to all operators, police forces and local authorities here.

Football is our national sport and England’s participation in the World Cup Finals is a cause for national celebration. The trade is rightly pleased the Government has recognised this, and it cements the status of the pub as the best place to enjoy this year’s World Cup. It’s almost like being in Brazil.

Jim Cathcart
Policy Manager - Pub Operations


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Pub chefs of the future

On 03/04/14 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

I was privileged to attend the finals of the Nestle Toque d'Or competition for young chefs and front of house staff from colleges around the UK.

It is the 26th year of this award and I was very fortunate to have been placed next to someone who has been there from the start, Anton Mossiman. Anton was the chef at the Dorchester for 13 years and achieved two Michelin Stars during his residence there. Since then, he has owned his own restaurant and recently catered for the IOC at the Olympics and also Help the Heroes in his native Switzerland. In turn I was able to talk to him about our planned pub chefs campaign to attract more young people from catering colleges into our pub kitchens and how food in pubs has changed beyond recognition!

The Toque d'Or competition goes through various regional heats and ends with six teams in the finals. The initial written submissions were judged by Tim Hulme, CEO of the British Institute of Innkeeping, and James Armitage, Head of Marketing at Enterprise Inns. There was this year a stronger emphasis on ensuring that students received an educational experience as well as being tested on what they knew. Practical experience is crucial to ensure the next generation of hospitality stars are prepared for the real world of work and they were tested in a range of different situations from preparing and serving in a Michelin star restaurant, to preparing pub meals and food for service personnel.

The atmosphere of the final night was exhilarating and uplifting. The winner this year was the team of three from the City of Glasgow. "I've never been so happy in my life" said one of the young chefs who won. Just as they were leaving the stage one of their lecturers from Glasgow College spoke in tears. "I've been involved in this competition for 26 years and it is the first time we have won". There was hardly a dry eye there and certainly not mine!

BBPA and our members have been working with Nestle for some years. They have a particular interest through their expertise in Nestle coffee and the stocks they offer for pub chefs. Nestle is still a family owned company owning a whole range of products which never ceases to amaze me! The Toque d'Or competition is inspiring and I hope that through our soon-to-be launched Pub Chefs campaign and inspirational recruitment film some of the candidates will end up in pub kitchens and as front of house staff – benefitting from the thousands of career opportunities our industry offers.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Media reports regarding beer's sugar content

On 02/04/14 by Steve Livens (Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain)

Media reports regarding beer's sugar content

There has been considerable focus on the sugar content of food and drink in the national media of late, and in particular some misleading reports have been published, claiming to highlight the ‘hidden’ sugars within alcoholic beverages, including beer. Much of this focus appears to be on the apparent addition of sugar to beer by brewers and, in the case of one report challenged by the BBPA in February, the ridiculous suggestion that a pint of ale contains nine teaspoons or 45g of sugar!

Spurious claims aside, the reality is very different and a pint of beer will typically contain less than a teaspoon of sugar. Some of the considerable media confusion occurred in differentiating carbohydrates from sugar. The total carbohydrate content of beer will almost certainly be higher than the sugar content. The finished beer contains many sources of carbohydrates beyond sugars, such as soluble fibre, many of which have been individually associated with positive health benefits. In addition, the majority of this carbohydrate is derived from the cereals which are one of the main ingredients of beer

Most beer will have very little, if any, sugar added during the brewing process, and any sugars that are added will be almost entirely converted into alcohol. The average sugar content for ale with a characteristic alcohol strength of 4%-5% ABV is around 2.5g, or half a teaspoon, per 500ml. Studies reported in the media that centre on sugar do so largely as a proxy for calories. In this way it is worth remembering that beer is relatively low in calories. A typical half a pint of bitter contains just 90 calories - that's fewer than in the same amount of orange juice, or milk.

Confusion and misinformation reported in the media do very little to aid consumer understanding of complex issues associated with nutrition and diet. They can also lead to misconceptions and in the case of beer, few know that, as well as being relatively low in calories, it also typically contains a variety of vitamins and minerals. There is no doubt that, when enjoyed in moderation by those without underlying health conditions, beer can certainly be part of a healthy lifestyle."

Steve Livens
Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain


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Local action leading the way

On 01/04/14 by Daisy Blench (Policy Manager - Responsibility)

The recent announcement by the Government of 20 Local Alcohol Action Areasto pilot solutions to tackle alcohol related harm have been met with general support from the industry but at a least some uncertainty of what the role of businesses should be.

However, as has already been seen through the commitments undertaken through the Public Health Responsibility Deal the industry has a great deal to offer and have signed up to a range of diverse pledges with far ranging and often creative actions to demonstrate their social responsibility and help contribute to the core commitment ‘to foster a culture of responsible drinking’.

Whether providing consistent information to consumers about units in their favourite drinks; providing appropriate health labelling on packaging; tackling underage sales; funding Drinkaware to educate people about responsible consumption; supporting partnership working in local communities or innovating to grow the lower alcohol beer category, the brewing industry continues to take its responsibilities seriously and will continue to challenge itself to do more.

However, work in the LAAAs will be a very different ballgame. Although signs show that the key trends nationally are moving in the right direction with reductions in underage drinking, harmful drinking, alcohol related deaths and alcohol related crime the picture at a local level is more varied with certain areas still coming higher than average on key harm indicators and a strong local desire to find solutions to problems.

With a diverse range of areas from Scarborough to Weston Super Mare selected as LAAAs, strategies will necessarily be tailored to the needs of the area and key objectives will vary. With public health now also a responsibility of local authorities, this will further add to the diversity of local ambitions and aims.

The pub and brewing industry has already been supporting partnership based solutions for some time and the schemes such as Pubwatch, Best Bar None, Community Alcohol Partnerships and Purple Flag have been making a difference in local areas in tackling a range of issues and helping to promote a diverse, safe evening and night time economy.

Whether it be providing support for the work of the national schemes, raising awareness amongst employees or providing local knowledge and input into the development of local alcohol strategies and action plans despite the challenges it is important that the industry get involved with an active role as an equal partner with local stakeholders and demonstrate what can be achieved with coordinated and targeted local action.

Daisy Blench
Policy Manager - Responsibility


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A cut in beer duty will be enjoyed by hardworking people – and it also supports a great British Industry

On 25/03/14 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

The suggestion that a cut in beer duty helps hardworking British people is backed up by a recent YouGov survey commissioned as part of our Budget campaign. It found that almost a fifth of workers were put off going out to the pub until pay day, because they could not afford it. It also found that there was huge support (69 per cent) amongst the UK adult population for a cut or freeze in beer duty.

These views were clearly understood by both the Chancellor and Nicky Morgan the Economic Secretary when they again cut beer duty by 2 per cent in last week’s Budget.

However, they saw the economic arguments, too.

Beer is a British manufacturing industry which suffered a 42 per cent increase in tax on its product between 2008 and 2012. Nearly 90 percent of beer produced in this country is drunk here and yet British brewers hardly make 2p a pint.

Why is beer important to pubs? Because beer accounts for seven out of ten alcoholic drinks sold in pubs. Draft ale on such a large scale is unique to the UK. It is one of the reasons why, according to Visit Britain, going to a pub is third on the list of things to do for overseas visitors.

Brewing and pubs support almost one million jobs in the UK. Of these jobs, 20,000 are in agriculture; 40 per cent of UK malting barley is used in British beer and brewers also use British hops and malt. In pubs, there are 600,000 employees. 46 per cent are under the age of 25 and over 50 per cent are women. If more people go to the pub, pubs will hire more staff. With the first duty cut last year, ten thousand jobs were saved.

Brewers and pubs have proved to the Treasury that not only can they build on the confidence provided in last year’s cut – some £400 million was invested in capex last year - but they can also increase exports. Beer exports were worth £629 million in 2013 and are up 24 per cent, outside the EU, since 2008.

Going back to the survey, 80% of the UK adult population wanted wider taxes on pubs to be frozen or cut. Yes, this is a popular measure, but it is also provides very serious and important support for a British Industry which contributes some £22 billion in gross value added to the UK economy.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Tackling Excise Duty Fraud: next steps

On 14/03/14 by Andy Tighe (Policy Director)

Despite the very welcome decision by Government not to proceed with tax stamps for beer, expectations remain high that the legitimate industry has a greater role to play in achieving a significant reduction in duty fraud and associated revenue losses.

Following a kick-off meeting of a new Government and Industry joint anti-fraud task force in January, six work streams have been identified to progress specific areas identified to better understand, communicate and ultimately reduce alcohol duty fraud. These are: The nature and scale of fraud; information and intelligence sharing; collaboration; technology; communication; and, retail practices.

The first meetings will take place at the beginning of April to agree the terms of reference and identify high priority activity and outputs for the next 12 months. Brewers are to be represented on the groups either directly or via BBPA. The groups will report back to the main taskforce which will, in turn, report back to the Minister (Nicky Morgan MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury) on the progress made. It is also envisaged that there will be a formal report published at the end of the year.

This week, BBPA Council also endorsed the Best Practice due-diligence/know-your-customer template developed by BBPA through the Beer Duty Operations Panel with input from HMRC and agreed to implement this across the membership. This is a vital step in helping to secure supply chains although will only be truly effective if similar actions are also implemented both down and across alcohol supply chains. The BBPA will therefore be pursuing wider sign-up of this via the joint anti-fraud taskforce. This will be even more pertinent as HMRC has announced that due-diligence activity will become a condition of approval for alcohol producers and traders in duty-in-suspended products.

It is also worth highlighting that duty fraud has knock-on implications on other policy areas and particularly the proliferation of ‘voluntary’ local schemes to remove what are described as “cheap super-strength” beers and ciders, which risk stigmatising the beer category as a whole. From a beer perspective the duty alone (plus the VAT on the duty) on a 4-pack of 500ml cans of 9% abv beer comes to £5.23 on a ‘duty paid’ basis. Therefore, these are not particularly cheap alcoholic drinks to produce and retail, particularly compared to a 2-litre bottle of 7.5% abv cider which would pay 95p in duty/VAT.

In the final quarter of 2013, HMRC and Border Force seized 2.4 million litres of illicit alcohol, including 1.8 million litres of illicit beer, plus 58 HGVs following over 1000 interceptions.

Andy Tighe
Policy Director


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Working Together: Corporate Partnerships

On 10/03/14 by Liz Gaffer (Director of Marketing & Charity Services, LTC)

Since launching our new Support and Care service last year, we’ve had a great response and plenty of interest from the larger pub companies and brewers alike, wanting to know more about how the Charity helps all the hard-working people in our trade when they face difficulties. And I feel that we’ve gone some way to addressing the negative perception about us ‘helping the failures’.

We are a caring organisation devoted to looking after people in the licensed drinks trade when it’s most needed. The Charity’s been around for over 200 years and even today, we’re proving we’re just as relevant as we have always been. Our quick response tweeting how we help Licensees when they’ve been personally affected by the recent floods is a good example.

Over the past few months we have established good working relationships with many HR and or Operations Directors at Punch Taverns, Heineken, Adnams, Wadworth & Co and JW Lees to name a few, all of whom are now actively promoting LTC’s Support and Care through their internal communications network.

We have produced bespoke banner ads for Punch Buyer’s Club website and appeared in Punch Innsider - their staff magazine; we sent 1300 leaflets to Heineken to enclose in their employee packs and appeared in First Orders staff magazine and last month Adnams released an email campaign to their staff to raise awareness of how we support children.

Our message to all the pub cos and brewers - big or small - is that we are here to help and can help with a range of different personal issues. If all HR Directors see us as an extension to what support you already offer staff, together we can keep the pub industry thriving.

Our helpline is free and our friendly advisors are trained to quickly access your situation and provide relevant information to help you out of difficulty; they listen without judging and work through all the options until a resolution is found and if that means financial assistance, we consider that too.

If you manage or work in a pub, club, brewery or off-licensed and for whatever reason are facing personal difficulties – I urge you to make the Licensed Trade Charity your ‘go-to’ charity in the first instance. Call us confidentially on 0808 801 0550. Calls are FREE and lines are open from 8am-8pm, 7 days a week. Or visit

None of us plan for things to go wrong but when they do we are here to listen and help.

If you work in HR or Operations and you can help us spread the word about our Charity amongst your organisation, please get in touch.

Liz Gaffer, Director of Marketing & Charity Services, The Licensed Trade Charity

Tel: 01344 884440

Liz Gaffer
Director of Marketing & Charity Services, LTC


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