The NHS recommends that adults should drink no more than 14 units per week.
By: Kimberly Rodrigues
Despite a significant increase in alcohol-specific deaths in the UK in 2020, not much research has been conducted on consumer perceptions of alcohol packaging as a versatile marketing tool, states a study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
This study was recently conducted with the objective of exploring how young adult drinkers in Scotland view and engage with alcohol packaging.
Based on the conclusions of the published study, it was found that alcohol packaging can capture attention, generate appeal, and help to shape perceptions of a product, the drinker, and the drinking experience.
The study reportedly also considered whether young drinkers were influenced by packaging when deciding which alcoholic beverage to buy.
It discovered that some of the 50 Scottish youngsters (who were part of the study) bought drinks based on colorful, attractive, or memorable packaging. While others reportedly chose small convenient containers, to help them drink easily on public transport or to evade the police.
Though the NHS recommends that adults should drink no more than 14 units per week, some of the participants were reportedly drinking 80 units a week — equivalent to about six pints of low-strength beer, or 11 shots of hard liquor in a day.
Volunteers in the study were offered a range of alcoholic drinks sold in the UK, such as Stella Artois beer, Smirnoff brand vodka, and Gordon’s gin.
A young man is reported to have said, “I don’t really like beer, but I bought it [Brewdog] mainly because I liked the packaging.”
Another man added, “Colour attracts people, it’s all about colours.”
Packaging experts reveal that the colour of packaging is important to attract a target audience. The human eye is supposedly drawn to colour because we all have our personal favourite. We also have an emotional connection with different colours, and this can prompt different reactions.
In light of the new findings, activists want that alcohol should be sold in plain packaging or labeled with cigarette-style health warnings, state media reports.
Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, the charity that funded the study, has called for immediate action.
She reportedly said, ‘Making health warnings on alcohol products mandatory would help counteract the attractiveness of packaging and address the current low level of knowledge of alcohol harm.’
It is reported that since 2016, all tobacco products in the UK are sold in bland, standardized packaging after health groups campaigned for the change.
Matt Lambert, chief executive of the UK alcohol marketing regulator, is not surprised by the study’s findings.
He is reported to have said, “This study shows that a product’s packaging is designed to appeal to different audiences, something that would apply in all forms of marketing and in itself is no surprise.”
By law, alcoholic drinks in the UK are only required to mention the alcohol content by volume, total volume, and country of origin on the label.
However, many alcoholic drinks also include how many units of alcohol are in the drink. There is also a general warning that pregnant women should not consume it.
However, there is an increasing movement to extend cigarette-style graphic health warning packaging to various products such as alcohol and chocolate bars.
Stirling University researchers believe that uniform branding — a reflection of how tobacco is sold — might be less attractive, which in turn would help lower drinking rates.
In February of this year, the Stirling experts reportedly found similar warnings on vodka bottles with phrases such as ‘alcohol causes oral cancer’, as well as images of people clinging to their livers (as if in pain), thereby discouraging them from drinking.
Lead researcher Daniel Jones is quoted as saying, “Incorporating prominent warnings on packaging can reduce attractiveness, raise awareness of alcohol-related risks and support a reduction in use.”
In tests on 1,300 young Britons, it was reported that those who looked at the warnings were less likely to find alcohol attractive and more likely to think about its health risks.