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Removing Largest Serving Sizes of Wine Decreases Alcohol Consumption

When restaurants in England removed their largest size of wine sold by the glass, consumers drank less alcohol

by PLOS
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Across 21 licensed premises in England, removing the largest individual serving size of wine from the menu reduced the volume of wine sold, according to a new study in the open access journal PLOS Medicine by Theresa Marteau of the University of Cambridge, UK, and colleagues.

Alcohol consumption is the fifth largest contributor to premature death and disease globally. Many cues in physical and economic environments influence alcohol consumption across populations. One proposed intervention to excessive alcohol consumption is reducing the size of servings of alcoholic drinks sold by the glass, but there has been no real-world evidence for the effectiveness of this.

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In the new study, researchers asked 21 licensed premises in England to remove from their menus their largest serving of wine by the glass—usually 250 mL—for four weeks. The researchers then tracked the total volume of wine, beer, and cider sold by each establishment.

Over the course of the four weeks, the total volume of wine sold by the licensed premises decreased by 7.6 percent, and there was no overall increase in beer and cider sales. There was an increase in the sales of smaller servings of wine by the glass—generally 125 mL and 175 mL—but no impact on sales of wine by the bottle or beer or cider sales. Despite the decreased volume of wine sold, there was no change in daily revenue, likely reflecting an increased profit margin for smaller glasses of wine. Overall, the study suggests that when the largest serving of wine is not available, people shifted toward the smaller options and ultimately drank less alcohol. 

“This suggests that this is a promising intervention for decreasing alcohol consumption across populations, which merits consideration as part of alcohol licensing regulations,” the authors say.

Marteau adds, “Removing the largest serving size of wine by the glass in 21 licensed premises reduced the volume of wine sold, in keeping with the wealth of research showing smaller serving sizes reduce how much we eat. This could become a novel intervention to improve population health by reducing how much we drink.”

- This press release was provided by PLOS