Alcohol campaigners are calling on supermarkets to restrict all alcohol to dedicated aisles to avoid 'impulse purchases'.
UK charity Alcohol Concern carried out a one-day survey of supermarkets in Cardiff, Wales before Christmas, and found that beer, wines and spirits were on sale in food aisles and near doors and tills.
Researchers visited one branch each of Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Tesco and Asda.
It found bottles of wine next to dairy counters, near to ready meals, next to fruit juice, near doors and next to soft drinks. In Sainsbury’s and Asda, discounted alcohol was found near the store entrance. Tesco displayed spirits next to bread and tea, and in Morrisons Champagne was found next to milk.
‘This is all part of the normalisation of alcohol, presenting it as a carefree and risk-free product,’ Nicolay Sorenson of Alcohol Concern told Decanter.com. ‘But there is no such thing as risk-free drinking. Every unit of alcohol you drink has a toxic effect as soon as it enters your body.’
‘If two adults drink a bottle of wine a night with their ready meal, they will be drinking above government guidelines on a daily basis.’
In Scotland alcohol must be confined to a single area of the store, but this is not the case in England and Wales.
If consumers had to make a conscious decision to buy alcohol instead of being ‘nudged’, this would take away the chances of impulse purchases, Sorenson said.
He added that product placement in supermarkets was an exact science, and what was found in Cardiff would certainly be the same in stores across the country.
Andrew Opie of The British Retail Consortium said supermarkets were ‘responsible’ sellers of alcohol and that said the survey was ‘small-scale’ and ‘skewed’ by the fact it was done in December when there was more demand for alcohol, and more promotion.
‘There’s no evidence to link the way alcohol is sold currently to irresponsible drinking. Limiting supermarket displays would create inconvenience for the vast majority of customers who enjoy alcohol sensibly.’
The Wine and Spirit Trade Association said, ‘There is no evidence from Scotland that [separating alcohol from the rest of the store] has had any impact on tackling alcohol misuse.
‘Far from demonizing alcohol surely we should encourage people to drink with food. Most people enjoy drinks in this way and that’s why they are happy to buy them as part of their weekly shop.’
Individual supermarkets have not commented.
Written by Adam Lechmere