Buckfast sales soar in Scotland as Nicola Sturgeon's alcohol unit pricing backfires
Source: Telegraph UK
November 15, 2022
Sharp rise in purchase of caffeinated tonic wine, as Tories claim flagship SNP policy 'may be doing more harm than good'
Portland-based Eastside Distilling saw sales decrease by 6% to US$3.1 million in the three months ending 30 September 2022.
Buckfast sales in Scotland surged 40 per cent after Nicola Sturgeon introduced alcohol minimum pricing, according to an official analysis that prompted more warnings her flagship public health policy had backfired.
The Public Health Scotland (PHS) report found that in the year following the introduction of the minimum price of 50p per unit, sales of fortified wines surged by nearly a fifth - 18 per cent.
But the volume of Buckfast sold increased by the highest amount, with the analysis finding a "a considerably greater relative increase" in sales than recorded in the previous two years.
In contrast, sales of the caffeinated tonic wine, which has previously been linked to anti-social behaviour, fell in both England and Wales and "were a fraction of those in Scotland".
Buyers 'switch from cheap drinks'
The Tories said that minimum unit pricing (Mup) had prompted drinkers to switch from cheap drinks such as cider - the cost of which rose substantially - to stronger beverages like Buckfast.
The price of the tonic wine was unaffected by Mup's introduction in May 2018 as it costs around £8 per bottle, more than 50p per unit of alcohol.
The PHS analysis also reported a marked increase in the volume sales of MD 20/20, another fortified wine popular with youths, and the alcopops Dragon Soop and WKD.
However cider sales fell, with "substantial declines" recorded particularly for high-strength brands. Cider was one of the drinks with the "most pronounced" price rises following the introduction of Mup, along with own-brand spirits.
MUP not 'discouraging drinking'
Ms Sturgeon's government introduced the policy in an effort to raise the cost of cheap alcohol and force problem drinkers to cut their consumption.
But the sharp increase in Buckfast sales came after a final evaluation of Mup, published in June, found it had failed to change the habits of the heaviest drinkers - and led to some spending less money on food and bills to pay for alcohol.
Tess White, the Scottish Tories' shadow public health minister, said: "This report shows that far from discouraging drinking, Mup may just be encouraging people to buy stronger alcohol.
"This is just the latest evidence that minimum pricing may be doing more harm than good."
But Maree Todd, the SNP's public health minister, said: "This report shows that the introduction of a minimum unit pricing has driven down consumption of cheap high-strength alcohol which is often drunk by people drinking at harmful levels."