Global smart drinking goals: ambitious targets to prevent harmful use of alcohol


AB InBev wants to take its responsibilities and help find ways to put an end to harmful alcohol consumption. With the Global Smart Drinking Goals the world's largest brewer formulates four ambitious targets. 'The first: by 2025, we want a fifth of our global brewed beer to be low-alcohol or alcohol-free', says Philippe Vandeuren. 'In addition, we are investing $1 billion in campaigns to support responsible consumption. We are also making efforts to better inform the consumer about his alcoholic beers. And as a final objective, we want to reduce by 10 percent the harmful use of alcohol in six cities around the world, by 2020.'

Of course, Leuven, the cradle city of the brewer, has to be one of them. 'We focus on the large student population and, at the same time, on reducing harmful alcohol use in other target groups,' explains Vandeuren. AB InBev's first target is to chart all the problems and their causes. 'We suspect that the city is facing a number of problems such as binge drinking (drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time - red.), alcohol use at a young age and driving under the influence. The study was performed in November and December and the results are now being processed.'


Ambitious but realistic

All the experiences and insights of the six pilot cities should lead to Best practices which allow AB InBev to encourage responsible drinking in other cities in Belgium and in the rest of the world. It all looks very ambitious, but, in the past, the brewer already formulated six objectives on responsible drinking, and realized each one of them.


'As we have completed the basic research, we can now develop and launch new campaigns without influencing the results of the study. In December we are planning a campaign specifically focused on drinking and driving, in any way a relevant issue during the New Year's period,' explains Vandeuren. 'Later on we will be able to target and focus more specifically on the most relevant issues of Leuven, according to the results of the study. In collaboration with our partners, the city of Leuven, the University of Leuven and the UZ Leuven we think about how to set up campaigns for different target groups, for example through social media and with messages on city buses. Through their specific expertise each of our partners has a crucial role to play. We are also very pleased that our policymakers, aid workers and academics share our ambition to tackle irresponsible alcohol consumption.'


Hearts and minds

It must be said that many countries already perform better than Belgium. In Spain, for example, alcohol-free and low-alcohol beers account for 18 percent of the beer market, in Germany for 10 percent and in Belgium for a mere 2.1 percent. 'We still have a long way to go', acknowledges Vandeuren. 'But it also means that we have a lot of opportunities to improve. Our own research tells us that the people in Belgium are very open to this kind of products, and certainly the young people. That is encouraging.'

It finally comes down to winning the hearts and minds. Even in the own company. 'Everyone at AB InBev must stand behind the idea that 20 percent of our volume must consist of alcohol-free and low-alcohol beers and that we ourselves have to make an example. We encourage this awareness among our 3,500 employees in the Benelux countries, for example by giving them a box with alcohol-free and low-alcohol products on Global Beer Responsibility Day. We ask them to talk about this with their friends and family. Eventually they are the best ambassadors for our message and products.’