Alcohol bill could hamper Irish craft beer and whiskey boom

A new report also finds that new restrictions would fail to curb problem drinking...

Small Irish craft brewers and international firms looking to launch new drink products here will be negatively impacted by restrictions proposed in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, according to DKM Economic Consultants.

The research & advice agency also found that "the evidence is not very strong" that measures curbing the advertising and marketing of alcohol would be "effective" in reducing harmful levels of alcohol consumption.

Its new report was commissioned by the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), a body comprising the producers and exporters in the country, with DKM director John Lawlor joining Breakfast Business to discuss the findings.

 

"There are going to be significant impacts for the sector, for consumers, small retailers and rural retailers in particular," Lawlor argued. "Also in terms of innovation and growth and new product development in the sector."

Focusing on the "severe restrictions" on advertising and marketing that would introduce limits on when alcohol advertisements could be broadcast and ensure that alcohol was kept separate from other products in mixed retailers, he said:

"If we look at the advertising, marketing and promotion proposals, Ireland is a very innovative market for alcohol products. A lot of alcohol products... actually get launched in Ireland or test-marketed in Ireland.

"As well as that, we're also aware that the Irish whiskey industry is undergoing a renaissance. There's a huge growth in the number of craft beers that are available here."

Mr Lawlor made the case that the proposals would be to the "detriment" of new market entrants, new small producers in Ireland and even the more established producers.

The reason for this would be the fact that getting enough awareness to give a new brand lift-off in the market would become extremely difficult, he argued.

"The restrictions on where you can advertise, the restrictions on how you advertise, the degree to which you can undertake promotions...

"If you bring a new product on the market, you've got to make the consumer aware and if you can't do that... then it's going to be significantly more difficult to achieve that. While I guess the big producers, the multinationals, will just go elsewhere to launch their new products – and even produce them, because Hop House 13 and Heineken Light are both brewed in Ireland – the smaller producers may simply just not get off the mark at all."

When asked if he was missing the point by not acknowledging that the Government was trying to bring down the level of consumption in general, he said:

"We looked at those impacts and we found really that the evidence is very weak.

"What we found is that... alcohol consumption has been falling since the early 2000s. That wasn't just due to the recession. In the late years of the Celtic Tiger, consumption was falling as well. The evidence also is that youth consumption of alcohol is falling in Ireland. That's not to say there are not problematic aspects."

The National Cancer Registry revealed last week that harmful drinking is contributing to the 300% rise in people diagnosed with liver cancer over 20 years.

 

The toll has seen the number of cases rise from 60 per year in the mid-1990s to 270 in both 2013 and 2014.

Professor Frank Murray, president of the Royal College of Physicians, told the Irish Independent

"Every night, 1,500 hospital beds are occupied as a result of alcohol use, which directly contributes to the number of patients who are forced to wait on trolleys to access hospital care."