Price-actions for beer in the supermarket harmful for public health

7 June 2011

Amendment of Alcohol Licensing and Catering Act will restrict stunting with beer

During the week after Whitsuntide the amendment of the Alcohol and Catering Act comes up for discussion on the agenda of the Second Chamber (Lower House of Parliament in the Netherlands). One of the proposals is to give municipalities the power to curtail sharp price-actions of supermarkets. From a not yet published report by the Dutch Institute for
Alcohol Policy (STAP) it appears that this proposal can contribute to a reduction of alcohol-problems. Supermarkets go into action for years to put cheap beer in order to attrack customers with the result that excessive alcohol-use increases.
Wim van Dalen, director of STAP: “Local measures are excellent as a start to prevent the low supermarket-prices for beer. Still better is to immediately introduce a nationally covering regulation to stop the stunting with prices in the supermarkets”.

Supermarket: the biggest supply-channel of beer; heavy drinkers best customer
Over 70% of all the beer that is being drunk in the Netherlands reaches the customer via the retail trade (Beer statistics, 2010). In 2009 the supermarket had about 90% of the beer turnover for domestic use under control; the share of the licensed liquor shop was 10% (Profnews, 2009). For beer-producers the supermarket is by far the most important outlet. The turnover of the alcohol-producers is for the greatest part related to the excessive and/or risky alcohol-use (Baumberg, 2009). Figures show that about 20-30% of the total population is responsible for 80% of the total alcohol-consumption (Meier et al., 2008). As heavy drinkers mostly prefer cheap drink, measures against the stunting with beer-prices in the supermarket particularly hit heavy drinkers.

Beer: almost always on special offer
Annually there are about 2500 to 3000 price-actions on beer in the 25 supermarket-chains and at the 3 liquor shops-chains. It concerns weekly actions for instance lower prices per crate or quantum discounts (2 crates for the price of 1). Almost three-quarters (74%) of these price-actions take place in the supermarkets. The number of price-actions in the supermarket peaks around Queen’s Birthday, high summer, festivals like Ascension Day/Whitesuntide, Santa Claus, Christmas, New Years Eve, New Year and during the bockbeerfestival.
Great brands like Heineken, Amstel, Grolsch and Bavaria are modifying for the total number of price-actions. For the sake of Heineken is being advertised most (531 time in 2 years time). For various beer brands the normal crate-price per litre or the action-price per litre is even under the litre-price of a bottle of cola. The average discount amounts from 2,5 to 3 euro per crate.

Wim van Dalen, director of STAP: “Research proves that low prices of alcohol foster excessive consumption and with that alcohol-related harm. The supermarket stimulates with her sophisticated price-actions for beer excessive alcohol-consumption. With price-actions during summit-moments during the year or preceding feast-days, when the consumer already is inclined to drink more, the consumer is being challenged to drink even more”.

Municipalities presently can curtail price-action of supermarkets
The Second Chamber adopted during the past 10 years four motions to restrain the price-stunting by the supermarket and the catering business. Up till now these motions have not been realized. Hopefully there will be some change with the amendment of the Alcohol Licensing and Catering Act (2010). In the amendment-proposal is stated that the municipalities will have the power to decide that supermarkets get a fine if they offer for a period of a week or shorter alcohol with a price-reduction of more than 30%. The analysis by STAP proves that well over 1 on the 4 price-actions for beer of the supermarkets is part of this. Municipalities that want to tackle the supermarkets can henceforth draft a special municipial regulation (STAP, 2010).

You can download the report “Lonken met bier; een analyse van prijsacties voor bier in supermarkt en slijterij in 2008 en 2009” at,


Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP
P.O. Box 9769
3506 GT Utrecht
The Netherlands
T: +31 (0)30-6565041
F: +31 (0)30-6565043