'Exploitative': Beer cheaper than a can of coke targeting poor Auckland communities

Police say single sales of cheap beer and RTDs are targeting problem-drinkers and the poor, and want it stopped in New Zealand. 

Newshub has discovered singles sales are most prevalent in our most impoverished communities.

And some shop owners are so willing to make a transaction they'll even sell to customers who appear intoxicated. 

"At the end of the day, these liquor store owners are making money off the backs of the poor," says David Ratu, a South Auckland Maori Warden.

Newshub found single cans - known as 'singles' - selling for less than $2 each.

At one store selected at random, in Manurewa, a 5 percent standard-sized beer was specifically marketed as a single and sold for $1.40.

At the shop next door, a can of Coke was selling for more than the beer - at $1.50.

Police say cheap singles target a specific market. 

"Single sales cater for problem drinkers - young people, the homeless, beggars, people in the most deprived areas of New Zealand," says Inspector Graham Shields, acting manager of alcohol harm prevention.

"It just shouldn't be happening."

As if to prove a point, at another Manurewa bottle store our camera operator identified someone he believed was obviously intoxicated. 

The man attempts to enter the shop with an open can of alcohol - but the shop owner says that's not allowed. 

The customer then leaves his can at the door, grabs a single cider, and makes the purchase. 

"Of course, it's all about making money," says Ratu.

Justice Minister Andrew Little says cheap booze will be looked at as part of a future review of the laws.

"I think one of the issues that has come up is the proliferation of small, cut-price liquor stores in suburbs of low-income people. That looks exploitative," says Little.

Dr Nicki Jackson, executive director of Alcohol Healthwatch, says alcohol is getting cheaper.

"There's good research to show that alcohol is more affordable today than it ever has been, and that's not just in New Zealand - Australia and the UK are showing a similar picture, "says Dr Jackson.

Dr Jackson says it's cheapest at supermarkets - Newshub found a cask of wine on sale at Countdown today for $16 dollars - the equivalent of just 84 cents per standard drink. 

She says minimum pricing is needed, but the alcohol industry says that won't help. 

"People who want to drink to harm will do so even if the price goes up," says Robert Brewer, of the Alcohol Beverage Council. 

But Dr Jackson says research shows that's not the case.

"That's not what 100-plus studies are showing. They show that when the price goes up, consumption goes down and harm goes down."

And that, she says, means less social costs for all Kiwis. 

Newshub asked the supermarkets why their alcohol is so cheap - Foodstuffs didn't get back to us, and Countdown says its policy is not to sell alcohol at a loss to attract customers.

It then went on to say "in very limited circumstances" during a clearance, or to sell dated or damaged stock, "it may sell alcohol at cost or slightly below cost price".