Thursday, May 30, 2024

Ireland’s alcohol policies rely on ‘outdated stereotypes’

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Ibec group Drinks Ireland has called for more alcohol education and awareness and not more restrictive regulation that penalises most consumers who drink responsibly and in moderation.

It has also called on the government to do more to ensure the survival of the rural pub, with figures showing that in Cork alone, there has been a 30% decrease in the number of pubs between 2005 and 2022.

The calls came as the group that represents drinks manufacturers unveiled its Pride of Place vision document at a regional launch event in Cork, which sets out a range of policies it would like to see implemented to drive growth in the sector up to 2030.

The group said it believes that policymakers should recognise its members’ vital contribution to the economy and ensure evidence-based alcohol-related policies recognise that Ireland’s attitude to drinking has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. 

Among the key policies it would like to see adopted are:

  • a recognition that alcohol consumption has fallen by 30% in the last 20 years and the implementation of evidence-based policies that reflect the reality of our changing relationship with alcohol, not “outdated stereotypes”;
  • more education and awareness, not restrictive regulation that impacts upon the vast majority of moderate consumers;
  • the adoption of a proper policy of engagement with the industry, across all government departments whose policies influence the drinks industry;
  • ensuring a practical regulatory environment that responds to consumer choice and nurtures the growth in the zero-alcohol alternative sector through responsible promotion and advertising;
  • more supports for the tillage sector, which supplies much of the industry’s key ingredients;
  • more export supports for the industry which generated €1.8bn in exports to 120 markets globally last year, driven by whiskey, Irish cream, gin, beer, and cider;
  • more grant support for sustainability investments in distilling and brewing;
  • better promotion of the distillery and brewery experience as part of a bespoke food and drink tourism strategy. The distillery and brewery visitor experience centres attract close to 2.4 million domestic and foreign visitors annually;
  • and an alignment of excise duty rates on drinks products with European averages.

Drinks Ireland director, Cormac Healy, said its document reflects the fact that Ireland is evolving and maturing in the way we enjoy a drink.

“Consumers are taking charge of their own habits, and we can see this in the consistent rise of both zero-alcohol alternative products and the leaning towards premium offerings,” he said.

“Despite this, the policies we are seeing from government still rely on outdated stereotypes, playing into an agenda of vested interests and penalising the vast majority of those who drink responsibly.

“The policies spelled out in this report are practical, balanced and considered and will support, in turn, a critical Irish industry.” 

Almost 10,000 people nationally are directly employed by the industry, with a further 176,000 hospitality and off-licence jobs supported by the sector. The industry also buys 300,000 tonnes of grain annually, uses about 50,000 tonnes of apples in cider production, and uses cream produced from 300 million litres of milk, supporting farming families across the island.

Among the range of Drinks Ireland members in Cork are Irish Distillers/Pernod Ricard, Heineken, Molson Coors (Franciscan Well), Barry & Fitzwilliam, Clonakilty Distillery, West Cork Distillers, Stonewell Cider, Killahora Orchards (Cider), and Kinsale Spirits.

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