Scottish retailers contested claims from NHS Health Scotland that minimum unit pricing (MUP) has had no impact on the buying habits of young people. 

MUP was introduced by the Scottish government on 1 May 2018 and requires stores to charge at least 50p per unit of alcohol in a product. 

The comments come following the publication of a study by the national health board last week. 

Researchers carried out interviews with 50 people aged 13-17 years old, who reported that they had consumed alcohol before May 2018, when MUP was implemented, and had drunk alcohol since.

The participants confirmed that although they had observed a change in the price of some alcohol products, they tended to continue carry on drinking it if it was their preferred choice because they could still afford it. 

How Scottish retailers are adapting to minimum unit pricing

However, Dennis Williams, owner of Premier Broadway Convenience Store in Edinburgh, told betterRetailing he has noticed young adults in his store buying less than they usually would since MUP was rolled out. 

“Consumption of alcohol has been knocked down in volume,” he said. “I’ve noticed this with cider, because you can’t buy it cheaply any more.”

In a separate analysis of off-trade alcohol sales from the health board, figures show an 18.6% drop in cider intake compared with last year, as well as a 3.8% decrease in the volume of pure alcohol sold per adult.

Retailer Naresh Gajri, of One Stop Cranhill in Glasgow, said he had experienced a similar trend. “My shop is in a deprived area, and we used to have so many young adults buying white cider, but since MUP we don’t even sell it any more because nobody is going to spend £12 on it, when they would buy a bottle of vodka instead,” he said. 

The off-trade figures also showed the price of cider rose the most following MUP implementation, by an average of 13p, from approximately 43p to 56p per unit of alcohol.

MUP breached in symbol group promotions

The report added that although there were some changes in what young people drank, the reasons were mostly due to getting older, changes in tastes or tolerance and money available. 

Mo Razzaq, owner of a Family Shopper in Blantyre, said he is carrying out more soft drinks promotions because the alcoholic options are no longer selling.

“A lot of young adults aren’t buying alcohol in the week any more, so more of my promotions edge towards a meal deal with a soft drink, rather than a bottle of wine,” he said. 

MUP will be rolled out in Wales on 2 March 2020. Retailer Vince Malone, owner of Premier Tenby Stores & Post Office in Pembrokeshire, said he has used the Scottish report to formulate a plan to promote premium products after MUP’s implementation.

“We are hoping that our customers trade up and buy a better-quality product instead.

“We will kick off a campaign to promote our high-quality products.”

NHS Health Scotland declined to provide a comment.

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