Students’ associations are continuing to sign up to deals with breweries that reward heavy drinking by their members despite pledging to change the ‘alcohol culture’ at universities.
Major breweries offer student unions a series of staggered discounts that increase depending on how much alcohol they serve in a year. The so-called ‘hectolitre bonus’ can be as high as 75% of the wholesale price if consumption is high enough.
One fraternity organisation in Groningen received a €45,000 bonus for €60,000 worth of beer, effectively paying €15,000 for a year’s supply, according to research by RTV Noord.
The Rijksuniversiteit and the Hanzehogeschool in the city recently signed a covenant with the city council to change the drinking culture among students, but financial incentives for student clubs undermine those efforts, said Wim van Dalen, director of the Dutch institute for alcohol policy STAP.
‘Drinking alcohol is incredibly widely accepted among students,’ he said. ‘If suppliers are giving discounts on it, they’re stimulating alcohol use.’
He said the agreement with the local authority should address the issue of discount pricing. ‘It’s the ease with which people consume alcohol and the financial independence of the breweries. My plea to brewers is: stop doing this!’
Neither Heineken nor Bavaria would disclose to RTV Noord if they included discounting incentives in their contracts with student unions. But Tom van Erven Dorens, who negotiates contracts between breweries and associations, said there were obvious incentives for the companies.
‘Brewers do this because student associations are a very interesting target group,’ he said. ‘Students drink a lot of beer and if student associate with a brand of beer, they’re more likely to drink that brand for the rest of their lives.
‘So it’s attractive for a brewer to put themselves on the taps at a students’ association and stay there. And the bigger the association, the bigger the bonus.’
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