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Revealed: the hidden cost of new price rules for alcohol

Many cans of beer to cost nearly €2 each


Shoppers will notice price increases on some alcohol

Shoppers will notice price increases on some alcohol

Shoppers will notice price increases on some alcohol

The price of an average can of beer is going to rise far higher than the €1.32 indicated by the new Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) plan.

State claims about the impact on the cost of alcohol to consumers are in fact based on a relatively small can of 4pc strength beer.

The Department of Health and others have been providing guidance that a can of beer will cost €1.32 after the introduction of the measure.

But this is based on a 440ml can – whereas the standard can of beer in an Irish supermarket for the most popular brands is 500ml.

The same type of beer in the larger size will actually be hit with a minimum price of at least €1.50 per can.

Also, the alcohol volume of the beer used in the official example is just 4pc, whereas many popular beers are stronger.

This too will push up the price of a beer from next January under the formula offered by the Department of Health.

The prices of many popular cans of beer will move closer to €2 per can under the new rules.

On wine, the guidance says the standard bottle of wine, at 75cl (750ml), cannot be sold for less than €7.75.

The formula discloses that this calculates the alcohol of the wine at around 13pc, although many wines are 14pc or 15pc.

Officials last night moved to deny that the new minimum pricing regime was misleading to the consumer.

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They defended using the 440ml measure even though the 500ml can is more common.

But the new price is also calculated using a 10-cent charge on each gram of alcohol.

Arriving at the number of grams in a can, however, requires a specialist conversion that would not be known to the ordinary public.

The new laws will have an immediate impact on the supermarket shelves when they are introduced next year.

Many of the cheaper brands of beer will rise in price immediately. But even the big-brand names will see increases in some cases.

In a Dublin supermarket yesterday, eight packs of Karpackie 500ml cans of beer, with an alcohol content of 5pc, were being sold for €11. This is an individual can price of less than €1.38. Under minimum unit pricing, the price of each can would be €1.97 – an increase of 60c per can.

Four cans of Prazsky lager were being similarly offered for just €5, a price of €1.25 each. Its alcohol volume is lower at 4.2pc.

But even here the price would rise to €1.66 per can after the introduction of minimum unit pricing.

Excelsior beer was on general sale yesterday for only 75c per can – but this would more than double in price under MUP, to €1.58 for a 500ml can.

Some stronger beers, such as Faxe at 5pc ABV, come in litre cans.

These cans would cost €3.94 under MUP, or practically three times the indicated price suggested by State advocates after the measure comes into force.

The Irish Independent asked the Department of Health why a small can of 4pc beer was being used for an illustration to the public.

The department was also asked whether it accepted that using this example of Minimum Unit Pricing was misleading to customers.

In a statement, the department said: “The volume of cans of beers, ales and lagers that are available for sale range from 330ml to 500ml.

“A 440ml can of beer is one example used to demonstrate the impact of minimum unit pricing.”

It further stated: “The formula for calculating MUP takes into account the alcoholic strength of the product as well as the volume. The alcoholic strength of beers may vary, therefore the MUP will be different even if the volume is the same.”

The formula is set out in the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018, which is to be ­commenced next January.

It stipulates a minimum price of 10c per gram of alcohol, which could be increased in future.

Campaign groups like Alcohol Action Ireland have welcomed the move, saying that currently, a woman can reach the low risk limit of 11 standard drinks a week for just €5.45 and a man can drink 17 standard drinks for under €9.

Under the new rules, a standard bottle of spirits – gin, whiskey, vodka, rum – cannot be sold for under €20.

But the Tánaiste yesterday suggested that a price of €13 could be had across the ­Border.

And while the Government suggests that drink accounts for only 16pc of cross-border spending, the drinks industry says that surveys reveal a supermarket trolley taken through a Northern checkout by someone resident in the Republic will have a far greater alcohol element than if that person had shopped locally.

Evelyn Jones, a director of the National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA), said yesterday that her organisation would support MUP “wholeheartedly and in full”.

She explained: “As a targeted alcohol pricing policy to ­control the retail of ultra-cheap alcohol products, it is important to remember that MUP will have no impact on the vast majority of alcohol products sold responsibly.

“Based on three years of data, we know that cross-border shopping has not meaningfully increased between Scotland and England since implementation of MUP by the Scottish government in 2018.

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