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Increased availability of low/er strength alcohol products has the potential to reduce alcohol consumption if they are marketed as substitutes for higher strength products rather than as additional products. The current study compares the main marketing messages conveyed by retailers and producers for low/er and regular strength wine and beer products.
A content analysis of the marketing messages stated (in text) or depicted (in image) for low/er and regular strength wines and beers sold online on the websites of the four main UK retailers (Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury’s, and Morrisons), and the producers of these products between February–March 2016.
Four themes were identified: (a) suggested occasions for consumption, (b) health-related associations, (c) alcohol content, and (d) taste. Compared with regular strength products, low/er strength equivalents were more often marketed in association with occasions deemed to be suitable for their consumption including lunchtimes [wine: X 2 (1, n = 172) = 11.75, p = .001], outdoor events/barbeques [beer: X 2 (1, n = 96) = 11.16, p = .001] and on sport/fitness occasions [beer: X 2 (1, n = 96) = 7.55, p = .006]. Compared with regular strength wines and beers, low/er strength equivalents were more frequently marketed with images or text associated with health. These included images of fruit [wine: X 2 (1, n = 172) = 7.78, p = .005; beer: X 2 (1, n = 96) = 22.00, p < .001] and the provision of their energy (calorie) content [wine: X 2 (1, n = 172) = 47.97, p < .001; beer: X 2 (1, n = 96) = 15.10, p < .001]. Low/er strength products were also more often marketed with information about their alcohol content. There were few differences in the marketing messages regarding taste.
Low/er strength wines and beers appear to be marketed not as substitutes for higher strength products but as ones that can be consumed on additional occasions with an added implication of healthiness.