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AB InBev will give away free beer this summer

Last summer's Jupiler promotion. © Belga

It’s already the single most popular beer in the country, but this summer Jupiler is likely to win over some new fans, thanks to a promotion that has already been criticised by experts as “irresponsible”.

The normal measure for a draught beer in this country is, unless otherwise stated, 25cl. In a promotion announced this week by brewers AB InBev, that standard measure will go up to 30cl, an increase of 20% without any accompanying price increase.

In this way, we want to work with the cafes to help bring people out onto the terraces,” said InBev spokesperson Fleur Poets. Bars and cafes will be supplied with thousands of new 30cl glasses, although it is not clear whether total volumes of beer sold will increase by a great deal. One unforeseen effect of the give-away is that drinkers who tend to go for the larger 33cl measure will be unlikely to pay extra for what is now only a 3cl difference.

But the potential for greater beer consumption is a worry for addiction specialists.

This is an unfortunate development,” said Marijs Geirnaert, director of the Flemish expertise centre for alcohol and other drugs (VAD) “It will lead to people drinking more. Anyone who orders five beers this summer will in fact receive six, and that is not what we want. Alcohol addiction is a cause of human suffering, and we are trying with the rest of society to work towards a situation where the less you drink the better. But that’s not helped by this sort of promotion.”

We always call on people to drink responsibly,” said Poets. “If you have to drive, there is also the [alcohol-free] Jupiler 0.0.” For practical reasons – the non-alcoholic beer comes in 25cl bottles and is not available on draught – InBev will not include it in the summer promotion, she said. “But other actions are planned for our alcohol-free beers. We are aiming by 2025 for one-fifth of our income to come from alcohol-free or low-alcohol products.”

InBev, like other brewers of pilsner-type beers (mainly Maes owned by Heineken and InBev’s own Stella Artois) is experiencing a steadily declining consumption of these beers, and turning towards the growing market in special or craft beers. Adding 20% to a pintje might help massage the figures.

The VAD accuses the brewer of working both sides of the street. While handing out free beer unsolicited, Geirnaert points out, InBev is portraying itself as a champion of prevention of alcohol abuse. “AB InBev in Leuven and other cities has rolled out a major prevention plan,” she said. “But if they then come out with actions like this, it begins to look like no more than window-dressing.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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