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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Price and marketing determine what alcohol young people drink

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The consistency in the survey results suggests that a combination of low cost and targeted marketing are the main influences on vulnerable young people's drinking patterns.

Young people’s favourite alcohol brands

In 2013-14 over 10,000 children and young people sought treatment for alcohol as either a primary or secondary substance.

The latest publication from Alcohol Concern: “Alcohol brands consumed by young people in treatment 2015” is their third annual survey on the brands and type of drinks consumed by the vulnerable young people using treatment services.

The findings from all three surveys are remarkably consistent; the same brands are commonly consumed by ‘at risk’ young people year after year.

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The survey

The survey is based on data from 11 young people’s drug and alcohol services across England on a total of 223 young people aged between 12 and 20 years in treatment. Young people from the North-East are over-represented, making up 58% of the total.

The survey took place in 2012, 2013 and 2015. The table below shows the five most popular drinks for this year with the figures in brackets showing their popularity in 2013 and 2012:

  1. Fosters beer (1, 3)
  2. Generic or own brand vodka (2, 2)
  3. Frosty Jack’s cider (4, 1)
  4. Smirnoff vodka (3, 4)
  5. Jack Daniel’s whiskey (previously unplaced)

Generic vodka is the brand most commonly consumed by girls and young women accessing treatment, followed by Smirnoff vodka.

Foster’s beer is the brand most commonly consumed by boys and young men action treatment followed by Frosty Jack’s cider.

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Why do young people drink these brands?

When drinking, young people involved with treatment services appear to seek to maximise unit-price value and may be influenced by product marketing.

  • Frosty Jack’s cider, the cheapest popular brand in the top 5, retails at between 18-21p per unit and is commonly sold in multipacks
    of 3 litres.
  • Generic/own-brand vodka and Smirnoff vodka commonly retail at around 40p per unit and Fosters beer, also often sold in multi-packs, at around 43p per unit.
  • Jack Daniel’s whisky is the anomaly, retailing at the somewhat higher price of around 62p per unit.

The marketing for Jack Daniel’s whisky traditionally promotes the folksyAC brands report rebellious southern American roots of the drink. More recently Jack Daniel’s marketing has collaborated with Buzzfeed and Vice Media – information sources that are highly popular with young people and young adults.

The other high profile brands – Fosters, Smirnoff and Frosty Jack’s – all pursue marketing strategies designed to appeal to younger audiences – Foster’s through its humorous ‘Brad and Dan’ characters and Smirnoff through its nightlife focused campaigns.

Frosty Jack’s cider notably removed its own website and most of its social media channels after the Advertising Standards Authority found the product’s advertising likely to appeal to under-18s and in breach of advertising regulations.

These three brands are also some of the cheapest in their respective product categories demonstrating how both price and marketing are positioned to make them appealing to younger consumers.

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Conclusions

Overall, spirits, particularly vodkas, beer and strong ciders are the types of alcohol most commonly consumed by young people accessing treatment. There is a natural progression through the teenage years. Cider, which is sweet and cheap, is the most frequent type of drink consumed by children under 15 years old. Young people aged 15 to 17 years old, and the far smaller number of young adults aged 18 to 20 years old included in the survey, are more likely to drink spirits than any other type of drink.

The consistency in the survey results suggests that a combination of low cost and targeted marketing are the main influences on vulnerable young people’s drinking patterns.

It will be interesting to see if the the changes made to Frost Jack’s website have any impact on next year’s survey findings.

 

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