Supermarket beer 188% more affordable than thirty years ago, study finds

A study from the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) has revealed that beer sold in supermarkets is 188% more affordable than it was in 1987, with affordability having risen by 22% since 2012.

The IAS has compared affordability in the on-trade to the off-trade using data up to 2016. It developed an affordability index which adjusted prices for inflation and income growth.

It found that there was a “widening gulf” between prices at pubs and at supermarkets.

Specifically, it found that off-trade beer is 188% more affordable than in 1987, compared to 37% more for on-trade beer. The same pattern was recorded in the wine and spirits sector, with prices 131% more affordable in the off-trade, compared to 34% in the on-trade.

Since 2012, off-trade beer has become 22% more affordable and off-trade wine and spirits have also risen by 14%. This is attributed to alcohol tax cuts, but the IAS notes that tax breaks don’t appear to be equally benefitting the on- and off-trades. On-trade beer has become 5% more affordable while on-trade wine and spirits have risen by just 1% since 2012.

Katherine Brown, chief executive of the Institute of Alcohol Studies said: “Evidence shows that as alcohol becomes more affordable, communities experience greater levels of harm. In England cheap alcohol is creating a huge burden on our NHS, police and public services with more than 1.2 million hospital admissions and one million crimes related to alcohol each year.

“These findings strengthen the case for minimum unit pricing, which would target the cheapest alcohol drunk by those causing damage to themselves and others without affecting the cost of a pint down the pub”.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Rennard, who is to debate on MUP in the House of Lords today, said: “The figures show that alcohol has effectively got much cheaper to buy. There are real dangers that cheap alcohol can ruin people’s lives and cause great harm to others.

“That is why I will be asking the Government to follow what is happening in the rest of the UK. It should bring in minimum unit pricing in England in order to save lives and to reduce the burden on our hospitals and police forces”.

The Scottish parliament confirmed this week that the minimum price on a unit of alcohol from 1 May this year is to be 50p. Some supporters are calling for this to be increased, including The Royal Society of Edinburgh which issued a statement saying: “A rise to a rate of 70p would reflect a greater degree of ambition, might also be supported, and would have a larger effect on the consumption of alcohol and on inequalities of outcomes”.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association, however, has said that there is a “real concern” that MUP will lead to a new “black market” for alcohol.

Miles Beale, CEO of the WSTA, told the drinks business yesterday: “A Minimum Unit Price of 50p will already increase the price of half of all alcohol sold in shops and supermarkets. Any increase beyond 50p would have an even more significant impact, particularly those on low incomes and the majority of drinkers who drink moderately.

“Moreover, the modelling on which the Scottish Government’s policy is based did not include any uprating as part of its projections for the impact of the policy, against which the MUP experiment will be judged over the five year period.

“What is more important is that businesses are provided with clarity on the exact nature of the regulations so that they can ensure they are fully compliant by the implementation date, because this is a costly and complex piece of regulation that has never been tried before.

“The Scottish Government also needs to ensure that the impact of a 50p Minimum Unit Price on businesses and on all consumers is rigorously and objectively monitored and evaluated”.

One Response to “Supermarket beer 188% more affordable than thirty years ago, study finds”

  1. Vespafan says:

    This article offers a good alternative take. Income and affordablity incidentally, are not the same thing

    Poor science is fueling nonsense headlines given over to closet prohibitionists aka IAS

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