Big Alcohol Bets on Free Beer After COVID-19 Lockdowns
Big Alcohol’s latest strategies to protect and promote their profits include schemes of pre-bought beer and free beer vouchers as bars and restaurants open across Europe and around the world after COVID-19 lockdowns.
As Movendi International previously reported, the alcohol industry is facing severe profit losses in many markets due to COVID-19, similar to other industries around the world.
Big Alcohol has started offering various schemes to pull back people into buying alcohol from bars and restaurants. These include pre-paid beer and free beer programs.
- AB InBev have set up a scheme to buy alcohol in advance to support shuttered bars with, in some cases, the reward of free beer when the doors reopen. AB InBev launched its first scheme “Cafe Courage” in Belgium and has since sold over 200,000 Stella Artois, Jupiler and other brands. It also started similar schemes in 20 other markets across Europe and from Brazil to Hong Kong, amounting to consumer spending of over $6 million.
- Heineken has sold 270,000 through its various voucher schemes.
- Carlsberg offered free beer to consumers who bought alcohol through their “Adopt a Keg” scheme.
Brewers are also employing other strategies to get people to come into bars. For example, AB InBev’s Asian subsidiary sent “welcome kits” including hand sanitizer, gloves, masks and advice to 50,000 bars and restaurants across China and 1,000 plastic screens to help smaller venues separate groups of customers. The kits are being replicated in other regions as well such as in the Americas.
These novel alcohol industry efforts to drive up alcohol consumption are troubling for at least four reasons:
- Given the warnings by public health experts that alcohol use problems and mental health issues may rise after COVID-19 lockdowns;
- Given the fact that alcohol weakens the immune system, increases susceptibility for the novel coronavirus and fuels non-communicable diseases which also increase risks of COVID-19 infection and complications;
- Given that alcohol use in public places appears to jeopardize physical distancing and hygiene rule adherence; and
- Given the fact that they promote heavy and binge alcohol consumption – even further fomenting alcohol harm.