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The U.K.’s Self-Imposed Energy-Drink Ban Grows

First drugstore chain joins grocers in limiting sales to consumers 16 and older

LONDON -- The United Kingdom’s Boots drugstore chain has joined more than a half dozen grocery-store chains in England in voluntarily banning the sale of energy drinks to children.

Since the beginning of 2018, Waitrose, Tesco, Co-op, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Lidl and Morrisons—some of the United Kingdom’s largest food retailers—all agreed not to sell the caffeine-enhanced drinks to anyone younger than 16. The actions come despite the lack of any formal direction or regulation from the U.K. government, according to a GlobalData report.

Boots is the largest drugstore chain in the United Kingdom. Its owner, Alliance Boots, also owns the Walgreens drug chain in the U.S. Boots adopted the energy-drink policy in March, making it the first nonsupermarket retailer to join the ban, suggesting the action could grow well beyond the grocery channel.

“The fact this potentially profit-limiting step has been taken without government regulation or a call for retailers to take voluntary action is unusual,” said GlobalData, a data and analytics company. “[It] emphasizes the importance large retail chains place on maintaining a responsible brand image.”

Added William Grimwade, associate analyst for London-based GlobalData: “Major retailers have become extremely concerned about monitoring opinion of themselves on social media, and the highly competitive nature of British supermarket retailing means retailers do not want to be seen to be out of step with their competitors on issues like this.”

The United Kingdom’s National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) has attributed some cases of poor behavior of children in schools to high energy-drink consumption. Its #NotforChildren campaign has become prominent on social media among a variety of stakeholders in England, inspiring the grocers to enact the drink sales bans.

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