New figures show that the sale of take-home alcohol in recent weeks is almost 40% higher than it was in the same period last year. In all, some €158 million was spent on alcohol in the Republic over the past 4 weeks, according to statistics from Nielsen. The data was collected from supermarkets, off-licences and discount stores.

Stout had the biggest percentage growth, with value sales growing by more than 80%, or €3.1 million, over the 4-week period, compared with the same period last year. Lager saw a 51% – or €14.6 million – increase, while whiskey sales rose by 42% or €3.4 million.

There was also a spike in the sale of wine which increased by 34% to €53 million in the 4-week period, while sparkling wines and champagnes have seen a slight decline of 1.1%.

Drinks that were typically drank in a pub saw the biggest increase in sales. Stout sales in the latest week increased by 182% versus the same week last year. Stout is a known in-pub drink and people enjoy it if they’re going out. However, it’s not particularly common to drink it at home. The Nielsen analysts believe people are trying to replicate their experiences; they want to make it as close to their old life as they can.

While off-licences had the biggest channel growth, with sales growing about 50%, supermarkets and discount stores such as Aldi and Lidl still make up the bulk of alcohol sales in Ireland.

Patricia Callan, director of Drinks Ireland, a representative group for alcoholic drinks manufacturers, said with the closure of pubs, restaurants and hotels, they anticipated that off-trade sales would increase.

“However, this increase will not compensate for the loss in sales associated with the on-trade being closed, so we expect that overall alcohol consumption will be down,” she said.

Frightening statistics

Nielsen analyst Nicole Farren said sales continuously increased as the pandemic restrictions became more severe.

“When it was announced about not leaving the house apart from essential journeys, that’s when we really saw the peak of alcohol sales”, she said.

It went up 54% versus the same period last year. There were alcohol sales that week alone of €41.6 million – that equates to 12.3% of the overall sales for that week.

Sean Harty, Chairman of Addiction Counsellors Ireland, said the sales figures were quite frightening.

“Alcohol misuse has always been a public health issue, but it will now become a public health emergency”, he said. “We’re going to go from one pandemic to another. We are in for a tsunami of issues following this pandemic.”

Drinkaware, the industry-funded alcohol awareness charity, said it received some 40,000 visits to its alcohol and Covid-19 support page in the first 9 days of its publication.

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