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Alcohol consumption in Ireland plummets as drinking culture changes

Revenue statistics have revealed a steep decline in alcohol consumption in Ireland in a shift that has changed the culture of drinking.

Alcohol consumption has dropped by 32% since 2001, including a drop of 4.7% between 2020 and 2021, according to recent data. The shift, which is owed largely to government initiatives being introduced, alongside adapted priorities among young people, sees a huge step change in Irish drinking culture.

Bank of Ireland head of hospitality Gerardo Larios Rizo told the Irish Independent: “There’s been a number of things that have been implemented by the government, starting with the smoking ban, the tighter drink-driving regulations and more recently, you’ve seen it in supermarkets” the “segregation” of alcohol.

The government’s “segregation” of alcoholic drinks in stores, which was introduced in 2020, followed by minimum unit pricing which came into force earlier this year and set a minimum price for any alcoholic drink based on the grams of alcohol contained within it, have all had an effect on buying patterns.

Added to this, rising inflation and insurance premiums are also set to impact the Irish hospitality sector in the coming months, with the industry also primed to tackle what is feared to be its lowest rate of alcohol consumption in 20 years.

Since younger generations are also drinking less than before along with greater acceptance of sobriety and opting for no and low variants, volumes are reportedly due to decline further. However, one silver lining for the sector is that consumers are, it seems, spending more when they do opt for a drink due to a broader selection of high quality drinks being available.

Rizo explained: “Because people are drinking less, if they are having one drink, they’ll say ‘I’ll have the nice gin and the nice tonic,” but suggested: “Whilst there could be an erosion of spending power, I don’t think [the impact] will be that dramatic because people still have a need to connect.”

Rizo also pointed out that due to the demise of nightclub culture in towns and cities across Ireland, owing to rising insurance premiums as well as the pandemic there are lots of factors affecting consumption patterns.

He identified how, since many late night and hospitality businesses had felt the pinch of such a rapidly-changing operating landscape, nowadays “after two or three insurance claims, businesses can become unviable as you’re only working to pay your claims”.

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