Off-licence group chair says only cheapest drink will rise in price

Minimum price, expected to be between 90c and €1.10 per 10 grams of alcohol, will be imposed

The price of all but the cheapest alcoholic drinks will not be affected by the introduction of minimum pricing, industry sources have said. The chairwoman of the National Off-Licence Association, Evelyn Jones, said if proposed new rules on minimum prices were introduced, large retailers which had been engaged in below-cost selling of cheap wines, spirits and beers would be forced to delist certain products.

Under the new rules a minimum price, expected to be between 90 cent and €1.10 per 10 grams of alcohol, will be imposed on all retailers. There are about 200g of alcohol in a bottle of spirits so the cheapest it could be sold for when the new regulations come into force would be €18. Tesco currently sells a bottle of what it calls "Everyday Value Vodka" at €13.99.

A bottle of wine, typically, contains 80 grams of alcohol so based on the lowest minimum price being considered by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, the cheapest a bottle of wine could retail for would be €7.20.*

If he opts for a price at the highest end of the scale currently being discussed within his department, the cheapest price a bottle of wine could retail for would be set at €8.80. Tesco is currently selling a bottle of Revero Vino Tinto from Spain for €4. All the big supermarkets have comparable wine offerings to Tesco despite the duty on a bottle of wine – irrespective of the retail price – amounting to €5.76.

A 500ml can of lager contains 20 grams of alcohol, so, based on a minimum price of 90 cent per gram, the cheapest retail price for a can of beer would be €1.80. Tesco, which is the largest retail chain in the State, is selling cans of Stella lager for €1.29.

Ms Jones expressed confidence the new rules would not affect most people who bought alcohol in the independent off-licence sector. She said the average price people spent on a bottle of wine was about €10. This is borne out by the Numbeo international pricing survey which was published last week.

“The person who is buying the average bottle of wine or can of beer will not notice any changes once the new rules come in,” Ms Jones said. “There is no way profit-taking will happen and there is no way retailers will try and sell the wines that cost €4 and €5 today for above the minimum price when it is introduced. I don’t think anyone in among the buying public would stand for it.”

Note: This article was updated on February 5th,2015  to clarify the measurements the Department of Health is using

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast