Low-alcohol wine and beer may lead people to drink more.
Cambridge University researchers say the drinks are marketed for ‘lunchtime’ or ‘all occasions’, which may encourage them to be bought instead of soft drinks – raising overall booze consumption.
Dr Milica Vasiljevic, who led the study, said: ‘Increased availability of lower strength alcohol products has the potential to reduce alcohol consumption if consumers select these products instead of ones with higher alcohol content.
‘If not, they may simply increase the number of occasions on which people drink alcohol.’
Researchers found shoppers trying to lose weight were being nudged toward low-alcohol wines with descriptions such as ‘diet-friendly’ and ‘fewer calories’. Slogans for these drinks included: ‘Who said dieting couldn’t be fun?’
The researchers defined low-strength alcohol as below 8.5 per cent for wine and 2.8 per cent for beer.
The study is published in the journal BMC Public Health and looked at drinks sold by four British supermarkets.
A spokesman for the Portman Group, which represents the drinks industry, said: ‘I’m sure most people would generally agree that the phenomenal growth in innovative and great tasting low- and no-alcohol drinks is a good thing.’