Research demonstrates ‘exceptional affordability’ of alcohol in Ireland

A man can buy potentially harmful amount of alcohol for €7.50, women can reach low-risk threshold for €5, says AAI study

The cheapest alcohol on the shelves of shops should disappear next year with the introduction of minimum pricing. Photograph: iStock

The cheapest alcohol on the shelves of shops should disappear next year with the introduction of minimum pricing. Photograph: iStock

 

A man can buy a potentially harmful amount of alcohol in Ireland for not much more than €7.50 while a woman can reach the weekly low-risk threshold for less than €5, according to a survey published on Tuesday.

The findings of the annual research published by lobby group Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) “confirms the exceptional affordability of alcohol to every day shoppers and reaffirms the necessity for the commencement of minimum pricing of alcohol products that will ensure the strongest, cheapest alcohol is eliminated from the market”.

According to the research, a man can reach the Health Service Executive (HSE) low-risk guideline limit of 17 standard drinks for as little as €7.65 while a woman will reach the threshold by spending just €4.95.

The price survey, conducted in the middle of July in four locations – two urban and two regional towns – highlights that cider continues to account for the cheapest, strongest alcohol products available to people buying alcohol to consume at home. Beer is the second cheapest ahead of wine and spirits, such as gin and whiskey.

The AAI is critical of the large supermarket chains that dominate alcohol sales across the country.

The survey highlights a “sophisticated pricing strategy for alcohol across the Irish Off-Trade market, which enhances affordability at all levels of retail experience . . . and the value of the Irish Off-Trade shared amongst a small number of major retail operators.”

According to AAI spokesman Eunan McKinney the affordability of alcohol from off-trade businesses “across a retail landscape dominated by a handful of major players, continues to sustain Ireland’s harmful use of alcohol”.

He said that people seeking the “greatest purchasing power in discount supermarkets from Thurles to Terenure, or convenient stores from Waterville to Walkinstown” would be able to find “exceptionally affordable alcohol is ever-present in every community across Ireland”.

The cheapest alcohol on the shelves of shops should disappear next year with the introduction of minimum pricing, which will outlaw the same beer, cider, wines and spirts below certain prices, depending on the level of alcohol they contain.

The introduction of minimum pricing will ensure that a standard drink of any alcohol product cannot be bought in Ireland for less than €1.

However Mr McKinney suggested that it was “evident that the alcohol producers and retailers are already shifting their marketing strategies to ensure retention of key price points”.

He said the new rules might lead to fewer multi-unit packs and a greater prevalence of smaller volume units such as 440ml cans or 500ml spirits products.