The Co-operative Group has come under fire from Alcohol Concern for offering students a 10% discount on beer, wine and spirits.
The deal is available to more than 600,000 NUS card holders and the discounted alcohol will be on sale at around 3,600 stores nationwide.
CJ Antal-Smith, head of commercial for Grocery at The Co-operative Food, said: “Students are facing increasing financial pressures while studying, and are becoming more savvy when it comes to food shopping.
“We wanted to help students, many of whom are living away from home for the first time, to live and cook on a budget.”
The discount applies to food and drink but excludes various products such as tobacco and lottery tickets.
But Eric Appleby, Alcohol Concern’s chief executive, hit out at the retailer for selling alcohol at “pocket money prices” and urged it to act more responsibly.
A spokesman for the Co-operative told OLN: “We’re offering students a 10% discount on all their groceries, to help them to live within a budget.
“We do not believe that a 10% discount will encourage students to change their shopping habits and prioritise alcohol over food.
“The Co-operative Group is committed to the responsible retailing of alcohol. Within this, we are engaged in a wide range of initiatives to promote responsible drinking, including support for the charity Drinkaware, which aims to change the UK’s drinking habits for the better through public education.”
The National Union of Students, which issues the NUS card, added that it was committed to promoting responsible drinking and that students choosing alcohol over food is an outdated stereotype.
Vice president Raechel Mattey said: “When we asked our students what they most wanted from NUS extra, a supermarket deal was the overwhelming answer. We’re so proud to be able to partner with The Co-operative on this, because of its ethical food policies and its support for Fairtrade.
“This deal reflects the realities of students’ lives by addressing finance and the rising cost of living, nutrition and student lifestyle priorities. We want parents and students to know that between us NUS and The Co-operative will ensure students thrive.”