Legislation: A Brighter Outlook or Clouds on the Horizon for Alcoholic Drinks?

April 2021

Changing regulations and new restrictions are an enduring concern for alcoholic drinks companies. A number of countries introduced alcohol bans during the pandemic, while others opened the door to greater flexibility in sales channels, demonstrating two opposing directions of change in the global industry. This report looks into the alternative approaches and the likely future trajectory of alcoholic drinks legislation.

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This report comes in PPT.

Key Findings

The rise of neo-prohibitionism

Alcoholic drinks, and the on-trade specifically, have been high-profile targets of efforts to stop the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), although evidence for some of the decisions taken is contested. Anti-alcohol groups are using this time of increased health awareness to voice their concerns amid ongoing debate on the role of government intervention versus personal choice. However, the negative impacts of pandemic-driven alcohol bans provide a potentially timely reminder of the unintended consequences of prohibition.

Liberalisation gains ground

COVID-19 has prompted a temporary relaxation of distribution rules in some key markets, notably the US. Online sales, direct-to-consumer shipping and drinks-to-go from bars have proved a lifeline for struggling small businesses, and many consumers have been motivated, or able, to explore new purchasing channels for the first time.

Related developments need consideration

Beyond the main legislative changes, developments related to specific elements of alcoholic drinks or adjacent regulations will also require attention or adaptation. These include wider issues facing fmcg industries, such as health and environmental concerns, and expectations of transparency in production. Industry efforts to promote responsible consumption and consultation regarding new requirements are important within alcoholic drinks.

Overall, signs suggest that the balance is tipping towards a less restrictive approach

There could be further examples of toughened regulations introduced in the future, targeting high consumption levels, in particular. These are likely to be country-specific rather than broad, widespread trends. Overall, the focus of legislation will remain harmful consumption rather than alcohol in general – for now at least. In fact, there are signs that the success of temporary measures, the importance of tax revenue and support for a struggling hospitality sector are driving a gradual but lasting move towards liberalisation.

Key findings
The significance of regulatory change is readily apparent
South Africa: temporary measures will have a lasting impact
Ireland: alcohol bans and barriers amid high consumption rates
E-commerce cements its place in alcoholic drinks
US: pandemic-driven liberalisation raises industry hopes
Uber’s Drizly acquisition: overdue disruption?
US case studies: distribution evolves
India: the realities of restrictions hit home
Adjusting to a changing operating landscape
Specific concerns are addressed by targeted interventions
The information age: producer perspective shapes label plans in Europe
No and low alcohol sector boosts responsible consumption efforts
Signs suggest the balance appears to be tipping towards liberalisation

Alcoholic Drinks

Alcoholic drinks is the aggregation of beer, wine, spirits, cider/perry and RTDs.

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