Public Health Scotland (PHS) today published updated estimates of sales-based population level alcohol consumption.

Data providing greater coverage of alcohol sales in the independent retail sector, and including the year following the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP), is now available to us. We have updated the per-adult sales estimates originally published in the 2020 MESAS Monitoring Report, and our statistical analysis of off-trade alcohol sales in the year following the implementation of MUP accordingly. The independent sector includes small retailers and grocery stores with fewer than 10 outlets and accounts for approximately 6% of all off-trade sales (by value).

In the updated analysis, undertaken in collaboration with the University of Glasgow, we observed the estimated net effect of MUP to be a 3.5% reduction (95% confidence interval: 2.2% to 4.9%) in off-trade alcohol sales per adult in the year following implementation – after adjustment for sales in our control area (England & Wales), disposable income and substitution between trade sectors. Whilst slightly lower than previously reported, both the estimated net effect of MUP and the observed impact of MUP on different drink categories are comparable with our original findings, with reductions in cider, perry and spirits, while per adult sales of fortified wine and ready-to-drink beverages increased. Unadjusted analyses show that per adult off-trade sales fell by 2% (95% confidence interval: 0.4% to 3.6%) in Scotland overall, while they rose by 2.4% (95% confidence interval: 0.8% to 4.0%) in England & Wales.

When using the updated dataset our estimates of population level alcohol consumption in Scotland were generally higher than previously reported.  However our estimate in Scotland in 2019 remains at 9.9 litres of pure alcohol per adult, equivalent to 19.1 units of alcohol per adult per week and the lowest level of pure alcohol sold in Scotland since 1994.

Lucie Giles, Public Health Intelligence Principal at PHS, said:

“The incorporation of data giving improved coverage of alcohol sales in the independent sector allows for a more robust analysis of that sector and a more accurate estimate of population alcohol consumption. It enhances the robustness of our comprehensive evaluation of the impact of MUP in Scotland and the wider MESAS programme.

“Public Health Scotland will continue to monitor and evaluate Scotland’s alcohol strategy through the annual MESAS report, whilst a statistical analysis of off-trade alcohol sales in the three years following the implementation of MUP will be published in 2022”.

Read full report - Using alcohol retail sales data to estimate population alcohol consumption in Scotland: an update of previously published estimates.

Find out more about the Evaluation of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) and the Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) programme.

Last updated: 06 October 2022