Reducing harm caused by alcohol


New PHS report: MUP and alcohol products and prices

A new Public Health Scotland report was published earlier today, 15 November 2022, which evaluates the price and range of alcohol products in the Scottish off-trade sector in the 12 months following the implementation of Minimum Unit Pricing of alcohol (MUP).

The research shows that the average price of alcoholic drinks in the off-trade increased in Scotland to a greater extent than was seen in England and Wales over the same period. The increase in average prices during the study period was also greater than the rises seen between the two years in Scotland prior to MUP.

Before the implementation of MUP, supermarkets tended to have lower alcohol pricing than convenience stores. In the first 12 months after the introduction of MUP, prices in supermarkets increased more than those in convenience stores, meaning that both had a similar pricing level.

The greatest increases in price were seen in the types of alcoholic drinks that were priced the lowest relative to their alcohol by volume (ABV) prior to MUP, such as some ciders, perries and supermarket own-brand spirits – all of which tended to be priced below £0.50 per unit prior to MUP being implemented. The products that increased the least in average price, such as some ready-to-drink beverages, or those that decreased in price, such as some fortified wines in convenience stores, appeared most likely to see increased sales.

Changes were seen in sales across different container sizes, including reductions in the amount sold in larger single-item containers, especially for some ciders and own-brand spirits in containers of 1 litre and over. The amount of beer and cider sold in the largest multipacks also declined, while sales in smaller multipacks increased.

In response to the study, Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said, “Increasing the price of alcohol is one of the most effective and cost-effective policy measures to reduce alcohol consumption and harm. This research shows that people in Scotland respond to price. We have changed what we buy and reduced how much we buy due to minimum unit pricing. As expected we’ve seen the greatest decrease in sales of high strength, cheap products. In particular some strong ciders have seen a 90% decrease in the natural volumes sold in convenience stores. We’ve also seen people switching to smaller size packs and lower strength products.

“The overall effect of these changes has been a reduction of 3.5% in total off sales of alcohol, according to previous research.

“Now that we know the policy has reduced consumption in Scotland, the Scottish Government must optimise its impact to save and improve more lives. This is particularly important given the significant increase in alcohol specific deaths of 22% over the last two years.

“Alongside this we need restrictions on the aggressive marketing of alcohol and to reduce how easily available it is in our communities, to address how normalised alcohol consumption is. This should be backed by further investment in support and treatment services to ensure anyone who needs help can the right support when they need it.”

Dr Karl Ferguson, Public Health Intelligence Adviser at Public Health Scotland, said:

“In the first 12 months after MUP was implemented, we found that, especially for products that were priced below £0.50 per unit of alcohol prior to MUP, prices went up, the amount sold in larger container sizes went down, and sales also declined. We also found that, because of the price increase, even in instances where the volume of sales went down, the value (£) of sales remained fairly constant or increased.”