Skyrocketing sales of Buckfast are not due to minimum pricing, claims alcohol charity

An alcohol charity has rubbished claims that problem drinkers are moving from cider to Buckfast as a result of the Scottish Government’s minimum unit pricing.

A recent Public Health Scotland (PHS) revealed sales of Buckfast and MD20/20 soared in the year following the introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP) of alcohol.

Despite one of the stated aims of the Government’s introduction of MUP being to curtail the purchasing of high-strength, cheap and highly palatable alcoholic beverages, sales of Dragon Soop, WKD, and MD20/20 have shown large increases, while Buckfast sales increased by 40 per cent in the first year of MUP.

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The figures were revealed by a PHS report, which evaluated the price and range of alcohol products in the Scottish off-trade sector in the 12 months following the implementation of MUP.

Alcohol Focus Scotland has defended the minimum unit pricing policy. Picture: John DevlinAlcohol Focus Scotland has defended the minimum unit pricing policy. Picture: John Devlin
Alcohol Focus Scotland has defended the minimum unit pricing policy. Picture: John Devlin

“Natural volume sales of both Buckfast Tonic Wine and MD 20/20 increased in Scotland in the year following MUP implementation,” the report reads, “with per-adult sales of Buckfast increasing the greatest at 40 per cent, a considerably greater relative increase than was seen between the two pre-MUP years”.

However, Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, has warned that correlation does not imply causality, and that claims problem drinkers are just switching to Buckfast are due to the alcohol industry wishing to deflect blame onto one beverage.

“It's kind of clickbait because Buckfast has a certain reputation and people associated with it – particular groups of people and antisocial behaviour,” Ms Douglas said.

“Despite that, it's become more of a sort of hit drink, I would say. It's more fashionable than it has been for some time.

“And it has never been a cheap drink – it's never been the only thing that people drank, though it might be part of the mix.

“I also think that there's a more worrying reason why we're encouraged to focus on Buckfast. I think it is a tactic by the alcohol industry to make us focus on particular drinks and to foster stereotypes and negative attitudes towards particular types of drink.

“This drink happens to be something that is manufactured by one company, rather than us focusing on alcohol per se.

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“Our argument would be that it's not what we drink. It's how much we drink and that's really what the cause for concern is.”

The PHS report also found MUP had been “effective” at lowering consumption, after finding a 3 per cent decrease in the volume of alcohol sales over a three-year period.

“The evidence is that hazardous and harmful drinkers have reduced how much they're drinking as a consequence of minimum unit price,” Ms Douglas said.

“It's a separate discussion when it comes to dependent drinkers and this is where we go back to what people's beliefs are about who has an alcohol problem and who minimum unit prices is designed to affect – because the policy is not principally about dependent drinkers.

“It is about trying to prevent people from becoming dependent or to develop more severe alcohol problems.”



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