Sales of alcohol down by 3% in year to June
Overall consumption nevertheless expected to remain unchanged
Sales of alcohol in Finland have turned downwards in the first half of this year.
According to recent figures put out by the National Product Control Agency (STTV), operating under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, sales appear to be down by around three per cent, whereas last year saw a 3.5% increase over the same period.
Figures on a monthly basis show considerable fluctuations. In June, for instance, domestic sales of alcohol were as much as 9.5% down on the previous year, and advance numbers from retailers Alko report that sales in August were 5.9% off. On the other hand, July apparently saw an increase.
Over the first six months of 2008, sales of spirits declined 4.1% relative to 1-6/2007.
There are some fairly huge variations in individual product groups within the various categories. To take one example, sales of VSOP cognacs through Alko were down by 39% year-on-year.
"Prices have increased", explains Arja Muhonen from Alko. The hikes have been brought not only by a raise in alcohol taxation but also through increased global demand, as Asian markets develop a taste for the traditional luxury item.
The same thing has occurred with sparkling wines. Champagnes in particular have become costlier.
With sales of the hard stuff falling among Finns, demand has shifted towards wines.
Here consumption continues to grow. Sales of white wines rose by 5.4% and sparkling wines by 16.5% relative to the first six months of 2007.
There was a time when this sort of trend would have been actively welcomed, but this is no longer quite so true, as aggregate consumption is already high and the knock-on problems with alcohol also come from milder beverages.
"Cirrhosis of the liver is going to come, regardless of what it is you drink. And the victims of a drunk driver are still going to be victims, regardless of his or her choice of alcohol", notes Ismo Tuominen from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Tuominen's official title is Ministerial Counsellor at the ministry's Department for Family and Social Affairs, but really he is Finland's hard-stuff mandarin - his specific area of responsibility is booze.
Overall consumption of alcohol is expected to remain at last year's level, in spite of the reduced sales, since personal imports have once again turned upwards.
"An increase of around ten per cent in the first four months of this year", reports researcher Esa Österberg from STAKES, the National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health. Fewer people may be bringing the stuff in, but the loads they carry are larger.
The higher personal import figures will probably be enough to keep consumption flat this year, unless taxes are raised some more. "The saturation point has not yet been reached", says Österberg.
Finnish alcohol consumption has of late been subject to change, often brought by price legislation, though the weather can play a part, too. A cold rainy summer tends to depress sales of beer.
Overall consumption fell somewhat in 2006, and turned upwards once more in 2007.
Last year the figure was 10.5 litres of pure alcohol per adult member of the population, two decilitres up from 2006.
In European terms, consumption is high, and greater for instance than in Germany.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finnish alcohol consumption heads upwards again (5.3.2008)
National Product Control Agency (STTV)