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Corona restrictions prompt Finns to drink less 

Last year consumers turned to Alko, supermarkets and increasingly the internet for their favourite tipple.

Votkapulloja Alkon hyllyssä.
Alcohol consumption in Finland fell by five percent in 2020 compared to the previous year. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

Alcohol consumption in Finland fell by five percent in 2020 year-on-year, the steepest statistical decline seen since 2012.

According to a fresh report by the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), the consumption drop was mainly due to a decrease in passenger imports from abroad — a result of coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

Passenger imports were halved last year compared to 2019. When unable to travel abroad for cheaper alcohol — mainly to Tallinn, Estonia — consumers increasingly ordered their beverages on the internet. The amount imported was an estimated 1.9 million liters of 100 percent alcohol, or nearly double that of the amount bought in 2019.

However, that amount only accounted for less than five percent of the country's overall alcohol consumption last year, according to THL.

Restaurant closures boost retail

Wine and spirits monopoly Alko as well as grocery stores benefited from the decrease in Baltic ferry imports. Last year, Alko's sales volumes rose by as much as 12 percent from 2019, while other retailers recorded a four percent increase.

Retail growth was also boosted by restaurant restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 situation. Due to restrictions, restaurant booze sales were effectively shut down for a couple of months last spring and limited in the fall.

Alcohol sales in pubs, bars and restaurants fell by 41 percent last year from the previous year, accounting for seven percent of the total consumption of alcohol last year.

Beer remains most popular

Last year the equivalent of 9.2 liters of 100 percent alcohol was consumed by every resident in Finland over the age of 15 years of age, a figure that has been declining for years.

Finns mainly consume their alcohol in the form of beer. The number has slowly been decreasing, but was still 46 percent last year. The most sought-after beer is still middle-strength (up to 4.7%), although stronger beers have grown in popularity since alcohol reform law rolled out in 2018, which raised the limits on alcoholic drinks sold in supermarkets and other shops from 4.7 percent to 5.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the popularity of low-alcohol wines (5.5% and below) increased somewhat while the consumption of spirits declined. Those beverages each accounted for 21 percent of alcohol consumed last year.

Biggest sales bump in Åland

Alcohol sales increased in 2020 in all regions except Lapland, Uusimaa and Pirkanmaa.

Sales increased the most in Åland, growing by 24.3 percent, South Savo (5.4%), Kymenlaakso (5.0%) and North Karelia (5.0%). The growth in Åland, which is an island in the Archipelago, was attributed to the impact of coronavirus travel restrictions.

Alcohol sales decreased in Lapland, going down by 5.6 percent, Uusimaa (2.3%) and Pirkanmaa (0.1%) compared to 2019.

Most alcohol sold, per capita, was in Lapland, but much of the northern region's alcohol trade can be attributed to large numbers of tourists.

The least amount of alcohol sold, per capita, was in Ostrobothnia.

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