A study led by the University of Cambridge suggests that increasing the proportion of non-alcoholic drinks in online supermarkets could reduce alcohol purchases. Excessive alcohol consumption contributes to various diseases like cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Changing people’s behavior can therefore provide significant health benefits.
Researchers have found that people can be nudged to reduce alcohol consumption through small environmental changes. For instance, serving wine in smaller glasses led to people consuming less alcohol. The Cambridge team wanted to explore if a similar approach could help reduce alcoholic drink consumption.
The study involved 737 adults from England and Wales, who regularly purchased alcohol online. Participants were asked to select drinks from 64 options in a simulated online supermarket. They were divided into three groups and presented with different proportions of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks: 25% non-alcoholic drinks for Group 1, 50% for Group 2, and 75% for Group 3.
Participants in Group 3, exposed to the highest proportion of non-alcoholic drinks, selected 41% fewer alcohol units compared to Group 1. In the second stage, around two-thirds of participants actually purchased the same drinks in Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket. Participants exposed to the highest proportion of non-alcoholic drinks purchased 52% alcoholic drinks, compared to 70% for those exposed to the lowest proportion.
Lead author Dr. Natasha Clarke believes that the findings are promising and that increasing the proportion of non-alcoholic drinks could make a meaningful difference to alcohol selection. The alcohol-free drinks market is growing rapidly, with low and no-alcohol beer expected to increase by nearly 13% per year over the next three years.
Senior author Dr. Gareth Hollands suggests that if supermarkets stock a majority of non-alcoholic options, significant reductions in alcohol purchasing could occur. Importantly, the overall number of drinks selected and purchased remained similar between groups, indicating that drink sales and potential revenues may not be greatly affected.
Professor Dame Theresa Marteau emphasizes the influence of the environment on our choices and that even small changes can make a difference at both individual and population levels. The researchers also noted that while some non-alcoholic drinks contain fewer calories and no sugar, many still have high sugar and calorie content. They argue for continued regulation and policies to reduce sugar content and consumption from both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to mitigate health risks.
Key Takeaways in a Nutshell – Health Newstrack
– Increasing the proportion of non-alcoholic drinks in online supermarkets could reduce alcohol purchases and provide health benefits.
– Small environmental changes, such as offering more non-alcoholic options, can nudge people towards reducing their alcohol consumption.
– In the study, participants exposed to the highest proportion of non-alcoholic drinks selected 41% fewer alcohol units compared to those exposed to the lowest proportion.
– The alcohol-free drinks market is rapidly growing, with low and no-alcohol beer expected to increase by nearly 13% per year over the next three years.
– Supermarkets stocking a majority of non-alcoholic options could lead to significant reductions in alcohol purchasing without greatly affecting overall drink sales and potential revenues.