Research Report

Evaluating the impact of alcohol minimum unit pricing in Scotland: Observational study of small retailers


Stead M, Critchlow N, Eadie D, Fitzgerald N, Angus K, Purves R, McKell J, Marie MacKintosh A, Mitchell H, Sumpter C & Angus C (2020) Evaluating the impact of alcohol minimum unit pricing in Scotland: Observational study of small retailers. NHS Health Scotland/Public Health Scotland. Stirling.

Executive summary Introduction Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) came into effect in Scotland on 1st May 2018, and mandates that drinks containing alcohol must have a minimum sales price of £0.50-per-unit of alcohol. This study is one of several commissioned by NHS Health Scotland (now part of Public Health Scotland) to evaluate the implementation and impacts of alcohol minimum unit pricing in Scotland through the Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) programme of studies. The MUP studies are organised around four themes: (1) implementation and compliance; (2) the alcoholic drinks industry; (3) alcohol consumption; (4) and health and social harms. This study falls under the alcohol alcoholic drinks industry theme, although our findings also add to the evidence around implementation and compliance. The aim of this study The aim of this study is to evaluate changes in alcohol price, marketing practices, and product range in response to the implementation of MUP in Scotland in small retailers. Small retailers were defined as small owner-operated businesses, usually comprising a single store or small number of stores owned and operated by an individual or family. Such stores can be affiliated to a symbol group (e.g. Nisa, Premier, and Best-One) or independent (also known as non-affiliated). We respond to five main research questions which were set out in the original commissioning brief from NHS Health Scotland: Research Question 1: What happens to the price of alcohol products sold below and above £0.50-per-unit prior to, and following, the implementation of MUP? Research Question 2: What happens to the price differential between alcohol products at different points in the price distribution? Research Question 3: What happens to the alcohol product range offered to consumers? Research Question 4: What happens to low-cost high-strength (‘cheap’) alcohol once it becomes significantly more expensive, for example is it rebranded (in glass bottles) or is it removed from shelves altogether? Research Question 5: What happens to the ways in which previously low-cost high-strength (‘cheap’) alcohol is marketed? What we did An observational study was conducted, comprising three work packages. These are summarised in the table below, and described in greater detail in the report. Five case studies were also conducted examining key alcohol brands, triangulating data from all three work packages. These were for Buckfast 15% ABV fortified wine, Frosty Jack’s 7.5% ABV cider, Glen’s 37.5% ABV vodka, Tennent’s 4% ABV lager and Strongbow Original 5% ABV cider.

Publication date31/05/2020
Publication date online31/05/2020
Publisher URL…tores-report.pdf
Place of publicationStirling