The effects of minimum unit pricing for alcohol on food purchases: Evaluation of a natural experiment

SSM Popul Health. 2022 Jul 19:19:101174. doi: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2022.101174. eCollection 2022 Sep.


Background: On the 1st of May 2018 Scotland became the first country to introduce minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol sales. The objective of this study is to identify the effects of this policy instrument on food purchasing by evaluating a natural experiment.

Methods: Longitudinal analysis compares regions with similar characteristics but differing exposure to MUP (Scotland and the north of England). Secondary data from the Kantar Worldpanel on itemised purchases between April 2017 and April 2019 provided a total sample of 8051 households. The outcomes analysed are weekly household expenditure (£s) and purchase volume (grams), both overall and disaggregated to 16 product categories.

Results: Following the introduction of MUP, total household food expenditure in Scotland declined by 1.0%, 95%CI [-1.9%, -0.0%], and total food volume declined by 0.8%, 95%CI [-1.7%, 0.2%] compared to the north of England. There is variation in response between product categories, with less spending on fruit and vegetables and increased spending on crisps and snacks.

Conclusion: Minimum unit pricing for alcohol has displaced some household food purchasing and the pattern of changes in food categories appears to be less desirable from a healthy diet perspective. However, changes caused by a minimum price at a nominal 50 pence per unit of alcohol are relatively small.