Drinks Ireland Says Alcohol Consumption Declined By 19.7% In Q1 2021; Welcomes New Standards For Online Sale And Delivery Of Alcohol; Calls For Excise Relief For Craft Cider Producers

By Dave Simpson
Drinks Ireland Says Alcohol Consumption Declined By 19.7% In Q1 2021; Welcomes New Standards For Online Sale And Delivery Of Alcohol; Calls For Excise Relief For Craft Cider Producers

According to the Ibec trade association that represents drinks manufacturers and suppliers, Drinks Ireland, new Revenue Clearance figures for the first quarter of 2021 (January - March) show that alcohol consumption declined by 19.7% year-on-year in Ireland during the period, due to the closure of the hospitality sector.

Drinks Ireland stated, "Beer sales were the hardest hit, down by 34.5%, while cider sales also saw a substantial fall by 15.9%.

"Typically, around 60% of beer sales and 45% of cider sales are in Ireland's pubs, restaurants and hotels, according to Drinks Ireland, which represents Ireland’s drinks manufactures and suppliers.

"There was a fall, however, across all categories, and the new Revenue figures show that spirits sales fell by 8.2% and wine sales were down by 3.4%.

"Irish pubs closed for the first time in the middle of March last year, which hit sales at the time, so this new data illustrates a further fall.


"Overall, alcohol consumption declined last year by 6.6% to its lowest level in thirty years."

Drinks Ireland director Patricia Callan stated, "This new Revenue data clearly shows that alcohol consumption continues to substantially decline in Ireland as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite commentary to the contrary.

"While this decline was accelerated by COVID, it should be noted that it is in line with the trend of consumption falling generally in Ireland over the past 30 years. The average alcohol consumption in 2020 was 29.8% lower than the peak of 2001."

Drinks Ireland Welcomes New Standards For The Online Sale And Delivery Of Alcohol

Drinks Ireland has also welcomed the launch of the first-ever global standards for the online sale and delivery of alcohol.

Drinks Ireland stated, "A number of major Irish drinks producers have signed up to the international initiative, which is focussed on supporting consumers’ increasing demands for greater convenience with enhanced standards of responsibility to prevent sale to those underage and to reduce harmful drinking.


"In Ireland, the closure of the hospitality sector meant that alcohol consumption declined last year by 6.6% to its lowest level in 30 years. But e-commerce sales here and internationally increased, with global online sales up by 33% during the pandemic.

"In response to this trend, a global partnership of 12 leading beer, wine and spirits companies that form the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD) and 14 global and regional online retailers, and e-commerce and delivery platforms have identified five key safeguards to help ensure that robust standards are in place throughout the entire supply chain and customer journey to combat harmful drinking.

"The standards outlined in the document launched today include:

  • Improving safeguards and security measures that aim to prevent minors from being able to buy alcohol;
  • Putting in place mechanisms to prevent beer, wine, and spirits being delivered to minors, to individuals showing visible signs of intoxication, or where prohibited by law;
  • Providing tools, information, and education, or other support to drivers to empower them to deny delivery;
  • Enhancing consumer information and control;
  • Promoting global standards as a resource to support the development of national level codes and practices for the online sale and delivery of alcohol that build on local and national regulation."

Drinks Ireland director Patricia Callan stated, "Irish drinks producers are proud to abide by some of the strictest rules and regulations with regard the sale and marketing of alcohol in the world. These have been effective in tackling alcohol misuse, resulting in the average alcohol consumption in 2020 being 29.8% lower than the peak of 2001. Underage alcohol consumption is also declining. A Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey released last year by the WHO found that Irish 10-17 year olds who reported having ever been drunk declined by 19% between 1998 and 2018, to 18.3%, and we have a very low level of underage drinking compared with other countries.

"These new international standards are an additional layer and a targeted response to the fact that consumers are increasingly buying alcohol online."


Drinks Ireland|Cider Calls For Excise Relief For Craft Cider Producers

Additionally, Drinks Ireland|Cider has stated that it has "called on the government to extend the excise relief, currently enjoyed by craft brewers, to craft cider producers. The excise relief will enable further investment in the sector with the aim of replicating the expansion that the craft beer industry saw over the past 15 years."

Drinks Ireland|Cider continued, "The call comes from Drinks Ireland|Cider, the representative voice for the cider industry in Ireland, as it launches its annual Cider Market Report. The report shows that there was an 11.3% fall in total cider sales last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The report found that the rolling lockdowns on hospitality venues in Ireland increased cider purchases in the retail sector, but this was not enough to offset the loss of cider sales in pubs, restaurants, and hotels. Typically, around 45% of cider purchases are in the on-trade, with 55% in the off-trade. However, in 2020 just 16% of cider was sold in the on-trade, with 84% of sales in the off-trade, illustrating the massive shift in purchasing patterns.

"The COVID impact on cider, which is heavily reliant on the on-trade, meant that its market share of alcohol beverages fell from 7.4% in 2019 to 6.9% in 2020.

"The report also found that the value of cider exports declined last year by 2.7% to €58.2 million. About 90% of cider exports go to the United Kingdom, and other export destinations include the US, Australia, New Zealand, and France.


"The report highlighted that Ireland has the third highest excise rate on cider in Europe, after Finland and Sweden. Over the past ten years, more than half a billion Euro worth of excise receipts has been collected from cider sales in Ireland.

"The sector has called for additional financial aid to support the coverage of costs associated with the uplift of kegged cider during the recent lockdowns, in addition to the excise relief for craft cider producers.

"An excise relief programme for small producers, similar to the one enjoyed by craft brewers, could be set up at a minimal cost to the exchequer…and result in a number of downstream benefits to other sectors including agriculture, hospitality, tourism and retail.

"Brewers that produce less than 50,000 hectolitres of beer per annum get a 50% reduction on excise payments to the exchequer. Until 2020, the EU Structures Directive on Excise only permitted excise relief for brewers.  This has now been extended to small producers of fermented beverages like cider."

Chair of Drinks Ireland|Cider and founder and CEO of Carlow Brewing Company Seamus O'Hara stated, "The Irish cider industry has had a challenging year and any assistance from the Government would be welcome. The excise relief programme for Ireland’s craft brewers saw the number of breweries increase from 3 to 75 in the space of a decade.  Extending this programme to craft cider producers could result in further growth in the sector, which will ultimately benefit the consumer with more choice."

Head of Drinks Ireland|Cider Jonathan McDade stated, "With outdoor hospitality commencing from June 7th, and growing optimism about the opening of indoor hospitality in July, the cider sector is hopeful of some recovery in the second half of this year. While cider consumers reconfigured their drinking habits last year, with a shift to retail, the on-trade is critically important for the sector."

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