How it works
The basis of minimum pricing is that you work out how much alcohol is contained in a particular can, bottle, case or pack.
This is driven by how strong the alcohol is (ABV – alcohol by volume), how large each item is and what the Government sets as the minimum price per unit of alcohol at the point of sale.
Number of units
The number of units of alcohol can be calculated using this simple formula: Volume (ml) x Strength (ABV) ÷ 1000 = No. of units.
eg 1 litre (1,000 ml) of 5% lager = 5 units
Note that one alcohol unit is measured as 10ml (or 8g) of pure alcohol.
Impact on prices
Under a minimum pricing regime, all alcohol would have to be sold at or above the minimum price per unit of alcohol set by the relevant authorities (eg Westminster, Scottish Parliament).
What does minimum pricing do that other measures don’t?
- It will increase the retail selling price of the cheapest alcoholic drinks, especially in the off trade
- Other measures designed to increase prices may not be so effective; eg increasing duty
- It will directly link the price of alcohol to the amount of alcohol in the product
- Retailers who currently wish to reduce the discounts on alcohol, will not do so if their competitors continue to discount alcohol heavily
Why is minimum pricing not popular with some interested parties?
- It affects all drinkers, not just the problem drinkers who drink to excess
- There is some doubt expressed on whether raising prices will reduce excessive consumption; eg WDR research
What does it mean in practice?
The simplest way to understand minimum pricing is to input the details of your favourite tipple and see what price it would be if the minimum price was set at say 45p or 50p per unit of alcohol.
Try out the WDR minimum price and unit calculator – a simple tool to help you quickly calculate both the number of units and the minimum price for any combination of pack and alcohol strength for your favourite drink.