The average price of alcohol in Scottish supermarkets rose by 17.9 per cent per unit after the introduction of MUP, according to a Public Health Scotland report. The price increase in convenience stores, meanwhile, was 6.3 per cent, says Evaluating the impact of MUP on alcohol products and prices 2022
MUP came into force in Scotland in May 2018, and has been set at 50p per unit ever since. The report analyses off-trade prices in the year following its implementation, as well as the impact on container size, strength and multipack deals, alongside comparisons with England and Wales. Overall, average prices in Scotland increased from 60p per unit to 66p, compared to an increase of just 60p to 61p in England and Wales.
The 17.9 per cent increase in supermarkets saw prices rise from 56p to 66p per unit, compared to 63 to 67p in convenience stores, creating similar pricing levels for both. The largest increases were for products priced the lowest comparative to their strength, with cider rising by 25 per cent per unit and own-brand vodka by 18 per cent. Sales of ciders and own-brand spirits in containers of one litre or more were down, as were sales of beer and cider in large multipacks.
‘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,’ said public health intelligence adviser at Public Health Scotland, Dr Karl Ferguson.
‘This research shows that people in Scotland respond to price,’ added chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, Alison Douglas. ‘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 per cent 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 per cent in total off sales of alcohol, according to previous research.’
Meanwhile, the alcohol industry represents an impediment to achieving many of the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs), according to report from the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS). The industry creates huge amounts of waste, says People, planet, or profit: alcohol’s impact on a sustainable future, as well as destroying biodiversity and using up vital water resources in regions suffering shortages. It also facilitates human rights abuses including wages below the poverty line and vulnerability to exploitation and forced labour, it adds, especially in the Global South. Despite this, the industry still attempts to use corporate social responsibility to ‘position itself as an engine of development’, the document states.
‘As a society we know that we need to reduce our consumption across products generally, due to the burden on natural resources and biodiversity,’ said head of policy at IAS, Jennifer Keen. ‘However alcohol has a dual harm, as not only does it negatively impact the environment, but also kills millions of people around the world every year. So reducing alcohol consumption, through known, evidence-based population measures – such as reducing alcohol’s affordability through an increase in duty – will improve both the health of people and also the planet.’