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Alcohol price survey finds weekly intake limit can be reached in Ireland for less than €8

Alcohol Action Ireland said alcohol producers and retailers are shifting their marketing strategies.

Image: graph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

RETAILERS SELLING ALCOHOL in Ireland are changing their marketing strategies as minimum unit pricing for alcohol it set to come into effect next year, according to a new price survey of the nation’s off-licences.

Research by Alcohol Action Ireland has found that Irish women can now spend as little as €4.95 to reach their weekly limit for low-risk alcohol consumption, with the figure rising to €7.65 for men.

The figures for men and women are the same as a similar survey carried out by the charity last year.

The recommended low-risk limits for alcohol consumption in men is 17 standard drinks spread out over the course of a week, while the limit for women is 11 standard drinks.

A standard drink is a measure of alcohol and in Ireland, one standard drink contains ten grams of pure alcohol.

It comes as the Government prepares to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol in January 2022 which will put the price of alcohol at a minimum of 10c per gram.

Alcohol Action Ireland said today that alcohol producers and retailers are already shifting their marketing strategies to ensure retention of key price points ahead of minimum pricing. 

“Product offerings are going to change, [retailers] are going to have more 12 and eight-can packages at a price threshold of €14, €15,” said Eunan McKinney, Head of Communications at Alcohol Action Ireland.

McKinney said that retailers in Ireland are beginning to shift to selling less multi-pack units of beer and will likely move towards selling smaller volume units such as 440ml cans and 500ml bottles of spirits in order to retain price points. 

“That’s not a huge difference but all the same it’s 12% less alcohol in the product,” he said, adding this could result in less alcohol consumption in Ireland.

“Obviously minimum pricing has been brought in to reduce alcohol consumption, but the unforeseen result is that the product offerings will also change and that will have an impact in relation to reducing alcohol consumption.”

The charity, however, warned that that the continued use by Irish retailers, especially on their online shopping portals, of UK-based guidelines that reflect a smaller Standard Drink measure (8gm), remains “problematic and misleading”.

According to the charity’s survey, cider is the cheapest product by standard drink, followed by beer, wine, gin, vodka and whiskey.

It found that Irish consumer can spend (on average) as little as 45c for a standard drink of cider and 46c for a standard drink of beer.

The average cost of a standard drink of wine in the survey was 56c, while a standard drink of gin was 68c. Standard drinks in vodka products examined in the survey were, on average, 63c each.

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Minimum Unit Pricing 019 Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar in the Department of Health in May at a briefing on the introduction of minimum unit pricing of alcohol. Source: Sam Boal

The study was carried out in off licences over two weeks in July, in locations in Dublin, Sligo and Ashbourne in a range of convenience stores, neighbourhood shops and supermarkets including Aldi, Centra, Dunnes, Lidl, Londis, Spar, Supervalu and Tesco.

In Ashbourne, a two litre bottle of cider with an alcohol content of 5.3% was found for as cheap as €3.79, while the cheapest lager – with a content of 4% – was €8.79 for 12 cans.

A 700ml bottle of whiskey with an alcohol content of 40% was available for €12.99, while a 12% bottle of wine was available for €3.99.

The cheapest beer in Dublin was four cans of 3.8% lager priced at €2.64. Meanwhile, the cheapest spirit with an alcohol content of 37.5% was a 700ml bottle of vodka for €12.99. 

Separately, research from University College Cork found that from a sample group of 90 retailers only 58% were compliant with Section 22 of the Public Health Alcohol Act regarding separation and visibility of alcohol products in stores. 

Commenting on today’s findings, Dr. Sheila Gilheany, CEO, Alcohol Action Ireland, said: “The unsatisfactory rate of compliance by retailers to match the regulations of the Public Health Alcohol Act, after having been afforded a two-year transition, is deeply disappointing.

“It demonstrates, yet again, an unwillingness of those hyper selling alcohol to respond to the spirit of public health initiatives.  

“A generational shift in attitude towards alcohol can be achieved in Ireland but only if those at the heart of its commerce, act in manner that is compliant with the law.”

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