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Surge in Buckfast sales blamed on minimum pricing ‘trade off’ from ciders | HeraldScotland

IT was a landmark pricing policy designed to transform Scotland’s troublesome relationship with alcohol. But nearly six months after minimum unit pricing (MUP) was introduced, a spike in demand for Buckfast has led to claims that problem drinkers are switching from high-strength ciders to the potent tonic wine.

An overall surge in alcohol revenues from off-sales in the months immediately after the pricing policy also triggered criticism that the intervention has done nothing to stem the nation’s thirst for the ‘demon drink’.

The reality appears to be more complex, however.

It is true that sales of Buckfast rose by around 17% year-on-year in the first 24 weeks after minimum pricing came into force on May 1, equivalent to drinkers in Scotland snapping up an extra 3,630 bottles of the tonic wine a day.

Over the same period, retail sales of 3-litre bottles of Frosty Jacks – a high-strength white cider which was among the products hardest hit by MUP – have slumped from an average of 240 a day in 2017 to around 24 per day in 2018.

Under minimum pricing, Buckfast was unaffected – continuing to sell for £7.99 per 750ml bottle – while Frosty Jacks price tag shot up from around £3.70 to £11.25.

Simon Russell, spokesman for the Aston Manor Cider, which manufactures Frosty Jacks, said market data points to a “marked shift” in favour of high-strength drinks. Sales of fortified wine in general is up 15% year-on-year.

Buckfast is twice as alcoholic as Frosty Jacks but now appears cheaper on a bottle-by-bottle comparison, if not in terms of actual volume.

Mr Russell said the basis for MUP is “fatally flawed”. He said: “Perhaps intentionally, perhaps not, but the focus for MUP seems to be to target white cider. At best this is a distraction as the whole category represents just 0.27% of total alcohol and has been in long-term decline for many years.”

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Surge in Buckfast sales blamed on minimum pricing ‘trade off’ from ciders | HeraldScotland.