Case for Change

In 1989, wine and mead became available for sale from grocery stores and supermarkets. This was followed in 1999 with beer. The sale of spirits is not permitted.

The introduction of wine sales into New Zealand supermarkets increased the affordability and consumption of wine markedly. New Zealanders are now drinking twice as much wine as they used to.

There are two major supermarket chains in New Zealand: Progressive Enterprises and Foodstuffs.

Alcohol is the biggest selling caterory in the supermarket. Many New Zealanders buy their alcohol from supermarkets.

On average, the same alcohol product is sold more cheaply from supermarkets than bottle stores.

The number of supermarkets and grocery stores in New Zealand communities has been linked with a range of alcohol-related harms: antisocial behaviour, dishonesty offences, property abuses, property damage, sexual offences and violent offences.

The placement of alcohol in everyday settings, next to commonly purchased products, may normalise alcohol use in our society. Especially among children. New Zealand children are regularly exposed to alcohol in supermarkets.

Tobacco can't be displayed in supermarkets, but alcohol can. Yet alcohol is the most harmful drug in our society.

Availability, and exposure to, alcohol in supermarkets

Generally speaking, the more that alcohol is available in a community, the higher the levels of alcohol-related harm.1

In 1989, wine and mead became available for sale from grocery stores and supermarkets.

In 1999, beer  available for sale through these types of outlets. The sale of spirits is not permitted.

Research has shown that the introduction of wine sales into New Zealand supermarkets increased the affordability and consumption of wine markedly.2,3

Wine consumption increased by 11% -16% following its sale in supermarkets. This increase takes into account the lower price of alcohol in these settings. 

These increases happened immediately - within the first three months of wine being sold in supermarkets! Wine consumption has continued to increase (New Zealanders are drinking twice as much as they used to).

Alcohol sales are banned in supermarkets in Australia (although the supermarket chains usually have a separate alcohol shop next door). Many states in the United States also ban supermarket sales.

Today, around 250,000 residents of West Auckland cannot buy alcohol from their supermarkets as off-licence supply is controlled by the Portage and Waitakere Licensing Trusts. No supermarkets in the Invercargill Licensing Trust can sell alcohol.

During the New Zealand Law Commission's consultation on alcohol laws,  a strong sentiment was found in favour of removing alcohol altogether from supermarkets and returning to the pre-1989 era when it was only sold by specialist liquor outlets.

Supermarket's market share of beer and wine sales

There are two major supermarket chains in New Zealand: Progressive Enterprises (184 Countdown stores, 62 Fresh Choice and Supervalue stores) and Foodstuffs (140 New World stores, >50 PaknSave stores, 240 Four Square stores).

In 2000, the supermarket share of beer sales was 12% and for wine it was 43%. In 2008, they sold around 30% of all beer and just under 60% of all wine. In 2008 it was estimated that beer and wine sales in supermarkets were worth $1billion.4

The Law Commission found that wine and beer together bring in more revenue than any other category in the supermarket.5

In Auckland, approximately 75% of all alcohol sold is from off-licences; 53% of this is from bottle stores and 47% from supermarkets.6

In 2013, research found that the most common place for Auckland drinkers to purchase their alcohol in the last month were supermarkets.7

It is well-known that alcohol sold from supermarkets is, on average, significantly cheaper than the same alcohol purchased from bottle stores.4  The Ministry of Justice has stated that the price is so cheap that many smaller bottle stores buy their alcohol products from supermarkets.8

Alcohol-related harm and supermarkets

The density of supermarkets and grocery stores in New Zealand has been shown to be linked with a range of alcohol-related harms across the North Island of New Zealand. These include: antisocial behaviour, dishonesty offences, property abuses, property damage, sexual offences and violent offences.9

Exposure to alcohol in supermarkets


Supermarkets commonly use promotions to market their alcohol products for sale. They use a number of methods to stimulate shoppers to buy alcohol:

  • product displays
  • contests
  • price discounts
  • free tastings.10

To read more about the impact of promotions, click here.


On-site exposure to alcohol marketing at settings such as supermarkets is suggested to lead children to believe that alcohol is no different to any other everyday consumer good sold at the supermarket.11 This is especially given that supermarkets often us the same promotional strategies for alcohol as non-alcoholic products.10

Many New Zealand children frequent supermarkets on a regular basis. Although they may not frequently attempt to purchase alcohol from these places, they are heavily exposed to its marketing. 

In a study of New Zealand children's vists to supermarkets, it was found that in 87% of these visits they were exposed to alcohol marketing.12 

International studies show:

  • that when children are exposed to on-site marketing at alcohol retailers they are more likely to start drinking earlier.13 
  • that when children aged 12–14 years are followed over time, non-drinkers exposed to sales promotions at alcohol retailers were 42% more likely to use alcohol when they were aged 14–15 years.12
  • that children exposed to onsite advertising at alcohol retailers at least once per week were 50% more likely to have consumed alcohol than children less frequently exposed.14
  • that children's exposure to alcohol marketing in alcohol retailers predicts their ability to list beer brands, match brands with slogans and name products in masked beer advertisements.15 


A high quality study in the United Kingdom found that end of aisle displays increased alcoholic purchases considerably. Sales increased as much as 23-46% - this would have a significant impact on alcohol consumption.16 

Tobacco is no longer displayed in supermarkets, so why is alcohol?

In July 2012, New Zealand required the removal of tobacco displays from all tobacco outlets, including supermarkets. Prior to this law change, tobacco was not to be displayed in close proximity to products that are marketed primarily for children, including all confectionery.

The reasons for these restrictions were due to the growing body of evidence, both nationally and internationally, of the effects of tobacco display advertising on adolescent smoking.17,18 

Following the law change to remove tobacco displays, positive reductions in the initiation of smoking, experimental and regular smoking, and attempted purchase of cigarettes were found.19

This assists to provide a strong case for alcohol to be less visible in everyday settings.

References - Irresponsible promotion of alcohol - supermarket

  1. Gruenewald PJ, Millar AB, Treno AJ (1993). Alcohol availability and the ecology of drinking behavior. Alcohol Health Res World, 17(1):39-45.
  2. Wagenaar, A. C., & Langley, J. D. (1995). Alcohol licensing system changes and alcohol consumption: introduction of wine into New Zealand grocery stores. Addiction, 90(6), 773-783.
  3. Casswell, J. F. Z. S. (1999). The effects of real price and a change in the distribution system on alcohol consumption. Drug and Alcohol Review, 18(4), 371-378.
  4. New Zealand Law Commission (2010). Alcohol in our lives: curbing the harm. Law Commission Report (114).
  5. “Liquor: Big Retail Changes Coming?” Supermarket News (September 2009) Vol. No.2 Issue No 7, at 1.
  6. Insight Economics (2014). Economic analysis of Auckland Council’s draft Local Alcohol Policy. Prepared for Hospitality New Zealand.
  7. Health Promotion Agency (2016) Attitudes and Behaviour towards Alcohol Survey 2013/14 to 2015/16: Auckland Regional Analysis. Wellington: Health Promotion Agency.
  8. White J, Lynn R, Ong SW, Whittington P, Condon C, Joy S. (2014) The Effectiveness of Alcohol Pricing Policies; Ministry of Justice. Retrieved from [Accessed 21 August 2017].
  9. Cameron, M.P., Cochrane, W., Gordon, C., & Livingston, M. (2013). The locally-specific impacts of alcohol outlet density in the North Island of New Zealand, 2006-2011. Research Report commissioned by the Health Promotion Agency. Wellington: Health Promotion Agency.
  10. Pettigrew, S., Biagioni, N., Jones, S.C., Daube, M., Kirby, G., Stafford, J., et al., 2015. Sales promotion strategies and youth drinking in Australia. Social. Sci. Med. 141, 115–122.
  11. Chambers, T., Pearson, A. L., Stanley, J., Smith, M., Barr, M., Mhurchu, C. N., & Signal, L. (2017). Children's exposure to alcohol marketing within supermarkets: an objective analysis using GPS technology and wearable cameras. Health & Place, 46, 274-280.
  12. Ellickson, P.L., Collins, R.L., Hambarsoomians, K., Mccaffrey, D.F. (2005). Does alcohol advertising promote adolescent drinking? Results from a longitudinal assessment. Addiction 100 (2), 235–246.
  13. Jones, S.C., Magee, C.A. (2011). Exposure to alcohol advertising and alcohol consumption among Australian adolescents. Alcohol Alcohol. 46 (5), 630–637.
  14. Hurtz, S.Q., Henriksen, L., Wang, Y., Feighery, E.C., Fortmann, S.P. (2007). The relationship between exposure to alcohol advertising in stores, owning alcohol promotional items, and adolescent alcohol use. Alcohol Alcohol. 42 (2), 143–149.
  15. Collins, R.L., Schell, T., Ellickson, P.L., Mccaffrey, D. (2003). Predictors of beer advertising awareness among eighth graders. Addiction 98 (9), 1297–1306.
  16. Nakamura, R., Pechey, R., Suhrcke, M., Jebb, S. A., & Marteau, T. M. (2014). Sales impact of displaying alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in end-of-aisle locations: an observational study. Social Science & Medicine, 108, 68-73.
  17. Paynter J, Edwards R, Schluter PJ, et al. (2009). Point of sale tobacco displays and smoking among 14–15 year olds in New Zealand: a cross-sectional study Tobacco Control,18:268-274.
  18. Paynter J, Edwards R. (2009). The impact of tobacco promotion at the point of sale: a systematic review. Nicotine Tob Res;11:25–35.
  19. Edwards R, Ajmal A, Healey B, et al. (2016) Impact of removing point-of-sale tobacco displays: data from a New Zealand youth survey Tobacco Control Published Online First: 04 July 2016. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2015-052764.