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Alcohol badge.jpg This article is part of the Spinwatch public health oriented Alcohol Portal project.

SABMiller is one of the world’s leading brewers with brewing interests or major distribution agreements in over 60 countries spread across six continents.[1]The group's brands include premium international beers such as Grolsch, Miller Genuine Draft, Peroni Nastro Azzurro and Pilsner Urquell, as well as market-leading local brands such as Aguila, Castle, Miller Lite, Snow and Tyskie. SABMiller is also one of the largest bottlers of Coca-Cola products in the world. [2] Prior to 2002 SABMiller was known as South African Breweries, the merger of the Miller Brewing Company, owned by Philip Morris (now Altria) between 1969 and 2002, was the reason for the name change.[3]

Tobacco archive uncovers alcohol industry strategies

As Philip Morris was the former owner of Miller Brewing Company, researchers have been able to uncover some interesting insights into how the alcohol industry operates by accessing confidential industry documents, made public in 1998, when the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) forced publication of tobacco industry documents. “We realised that some international tobacco companies have owned alcohol companies, so we could obtain information on this industry as well,” said Professor of Health Policy, Mike Daube, one of the authors of the report [4]. The data comes right from the top of Philip Morris with documents intended for CEOs of the tobacco giant now publicly available. According to the researchers: "The measures they [The Alcohol Industry] fear most are higher taxes, tighter restrictions on advertising, marketing and sales, health warnings, blood alcohol content lowering and measures to increase legal drinking age. They are also worried about any attempts to place “restrictions on the use of athletes/celebrities”.[5] The research also makes public some of the strategies used by alcohol companies to protect their business, ranging from direct opposition to public health policy approaches and diversion strategies to the development and strengthening of relationships with other industries to assist them in their attempts to avoid formal legislation.

As public health campaigners have long known, the alcohol industry does not want to be seen in the same light as the tobacco industry. It fights hard to disassociate its products and companies from the wide-ranging harm associated with alcohol.


SABMiller was the main sponsor of the Battle of Ideas, which they described as "a two-day festival of social, political and cultural discussion which took place in London on 1 and 2 November 2008". One of the main debates at the event was "Boozy Britain – Are we becoming a nation of alcoholics and binge drinkers?" [6] The main speakers were Dr Gray Smith Laing, Dr Clare Gerada, Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, and Dr Peter Marsh.[7]

At the 2008 Conservative Party Conference SABMiller in conjunction with think tank Policy Exchange, hosted a debate on alcohol and related issues. 'Curbing Problem Drinking' debate debated issues including: how governments should deal with alcohol misuse; the role of personal responsibility and parenting; whether existing laws are enforced properly and how the alcohol industry can utilise more corporate social responsibility strategies to tackle associated problems.[8]

Pushing alcohol policy in Africa

SABMiller and other alcohol industry giants are actively trying to develop national alcohol policies in Africa [9]. The multinational drinks industry has made attempts to take control over alcohol policy formulation in a number of African countries. Many African nations do not have alcohol control policies and the industry has been keen to work with governments to develop strategies to reduce alcohol related harm. According to SAB's own account:

Together with members of government, public health, non-government organisations and industry, we drafted a policy that puts into place licensing laws and penalties, regulations on the sale and marketing of alcohol including server training and trading hours, requirements for education on lower-risk drinking and increased use of screening and intervention techniques .[10]
The policy was adopted in October 2007, and was the first of its kind in Africa. We have subsequently been working in a similar way in Swaziland (policy adopted in 2008), and in Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, and Ghana to help tailor policies to each country.[11]

Mitch Ramsay, a policy adviser with SAB, has been working with Damon Ansell of Diageo in conjunction with Keith R. Evans of the Washington based International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP) [12]. Working with groups such as the Ghanaian free market think tank IMANI, ICAP seem to be leading the way in lobbying African governments to develop alcohol industry friendly public health policies, and Evans appears to be their man in Africa [13].

Work with Demos

On 17 July 2013 the government announced it was dropping its plans to introduce a minimum unit pricing for alcohol. This volte face on a key part of its March 2012 alcohol strategy was prompted by research published by think tank Demos, later revealed to have been sponsored by SABMiller.[14]

The research exposing the link between Demos and SABMiller was carried out by Benjamin Hawkins and Jim McCambridge of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who monitored policy influencing activities on the think tank's website, social media and other publications, spoke with an employee involved in the SABMiller Demos funded work and attended two launch events for the report.[14]

In 2010, SABMiller commissioned Demos to conduct research on the 'social aspects of binge drinking among those aged 18 to 25 years old, this led to the report Under the influence being published on 15 September 2011. The literary review of this report left out research from the World Health Organisation sponsored peer-review summary of the alcohol policy evidence base and accessed instead industry funded publications, including a 2009 Centre for Economics and Business Research report on minimum unit pricing, funded by SABMiller, Wine and Spirit Trading Association, the International Centre for Alcohol Policies and Drinkaware. The report claims the preparatory work undertaken by the UK government on minimum unit pricing plans as unsupported assertions, amongst other anti minimum unit pricing arguments. In 2012, in association with SABMiller, Demos organised talks at all three main political party conferences to promote this report and another SABMiller funded report on the funding of alcohol carried out by London Economics. At the fringe events the speakers were; Fiona Bruce MP, Jonathan Birdwell, Patrice Muller, Emma Vandore and Laura Donnelly (Conservative), Diane Abbott MP, Jonathan Birdwell, Patrice Muller, Simon Antrobas and Clare Gerada (Labour) and John Pugh MP, Jonathan Birdwell, Patrice Muller and Emma Vandore (Liberal Democrats).[14]

On December 11, 2012 the Houses of Parliament launched a second report by SABMiller and Demos, titled Feeling the Effects, whilst SABMiller also funded Centre for Economics and Business Research to produce a further report on minimum unit pricing. Feeling the Effects was written by different authors to those who had written Under the Influence, therefore giving the government three reports on minimum unit pricing in quick succession at a key time for them in their decision making process. The fieldwork in the second report was facilitated by Addaction, a group who have received funding from Heineken since 2005.[14]

In November 2013, Demos published a further report on alcohol, funded by the Association of Convenience Stores, claiming the government rejected minimum unit pricing due to a lack of supporting evidence and calls for industry self regulation. The report cites research from the previous SABMiller funded work.[14]

SABMiller board director in key UK government role

In October 2014 non-executive director John Manzoni was appointed chief executive of the UK civil service without having to give up his £100,000-a-year job on the board of SABMiller.

The Cabinet Office's decision to allow Manzoni to keep his role met with much disapproval. MP John Mann, a Labour member of the Commons Treasury committee, said Manzoni's outside work 'undermines the fundamental strengths that Britain has given the world as the model of an impartial and independent civil service' and that Manzoni should be forced to declare and resign to remove any threat of conflict of interest. Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavillion, described Manzoni’s extra job as 'troubling' because it 'undermines the responsibilities he’s been charged with as head of the civil service'. She said 'it is essential he resigns from the role with immediate effect and publicly declares any remaining interests'.[15]

The decision to appoint Manzoni is even more controversial given SABMiller's influence in stopping plans for minimum unit alcohol pricing in the UK in 2013. [16]


Former lobbyists


According to SABMiller's website, its partners are:[18]



  1. SABMiller Our Business, Acessed 17/03/08
  2. SABMiller 13th November 2008 News accessed 3rd December 2008
  3. Altria Press Release May 30, 2002 Philip Morris Companies Inc. Announces Agreement to Merge Miller Brewing Company Into South African Breweries plc accessed 26th May 2009
  4. Eurocare 20th April 2009 “Big Alcohol” Agenda Exposed accessed 26th May 2009
  5. Daube et al. Australasian Medical Journal - AMJ, Vol 1, No 3 (2009)Access to Confidential Alcohol Industry Documents: From ‘Big Tobacco’ to ‘Big Booze’ accessed 26th May 2009
  6. Talking, SABMiller's Alcohol Education Website SABMiller encourages and supports debate around responsible alcohol consumption accessed 11th February 2010
  7. Talking, SABMiller's Alcohol Education Website SABMiller encourages and supports debate around responsible alcohol consumption accessed 11 February 2010
  8. Talking, SABMiller's Alcohol Education Website SABMiller encourages and supports debate around responsible alcohol consumption accessed 11 February 2010
  9. Bakke & Endel (2009) Drinks industry supplanting government role in Sub-Saharan Africa accessed 9th February 2010
  10. Helping develop policies to reduce alcohol-related harm, SABMiller website, accessed 11 Feb 2010
  11. Helping develop policies to reduce alcohol-related harm, SABMiller website, accessed 11 Feb 2010
  12. IMANI Draft Policy on Alcohol for Ghana accessed 19th August 2009
  13. IMANI Draft Policy on Alcohol for Ghana accessed 19th August 2009
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 Benjamin Hawkins and Jim McCambridge Government, Law and Public Health Practice Vol 104, No. 8, Industry Actors, Think Tanks, and Alcohol Policy in the United Kingdom American Journal of Public Health August 2014, accessed 27 October 2014
  15. Rowena Mason and Rupert Neate Civil service boss John Manzoni to keep his brewery directorship The Guardian, 10 October 2014, accessed 28 October 2014
  16. source needed
  17. Register 1st September 2014 - 30th November 2014 APPC, accessed 29 January 2015
  18. SABMiller Website Sustainable Development- Partnerships accessed 20th August 2009