ESTONIA - Consumption trends

The alcohol consumption of adults in Estonia increased by 1.7% in 2020 and in absolute terms reached 10.5 litres.

 

In 2020, 10.9 liters of legal alcohol were sold per adult (15+) in Estonia based on absolute alcohol. Taking into account the estimated quantities of alcohol purchased by tourists and consumed by them on-site, which totalled 2.4 liters of absolute alcohol per adult inhabitant in 2020, then there were 8.5 liters of absolute alcohol sold per adult in Estonia in that year. Adding to this the quantities purchased from abroad (mostly from Latvia), which according to the Estonian Institute of Economic Research (EKI) were significantly lower in 2020 than a year ago (−41.4%, 1.7 liters in 2020, 2.9 liters in 2019) per adult resident in absolute alcohol, as well as illegal alcohol consumption, which was estimated at 0.28 liters per adult per capita in absolute alcohol, 10.5 liters of absolute alcohol per adult per capita was consumed in Estonia in 2020, ie 8.8 liters per capita.

As the number of tourists decreased significantly, the quantities of alcohol purchased by them and consumed locally decreased by almost half (−47.4%), accounting for 21% of the sales volume of legal alcohol in Estonia (38% in 2019). The consumption indicator also includes the quantities of alcoholic beverages imported by Estonians from abroad (mostly from Latvia) for their own use or sale, which were estimated to account for 18% of adult consumption in absolute alcohol.

Illegal alcohol

The volumes of illegal alcohol have remained low in recent years. This has been facilitated by increasing consumer awareness and changing consumption patterns, as well as the effective functioning of control bodies. The Latvian border trade, which started in 2016, has also had an impact, offering an alternative to those who prefer cheaper alcohol. Although the Covid-19 pandemic significantly hampered cross-border trade, it did not lead to an increase in illegal alcohol consumption, as shown also by increased sales of legal alcohol. However, the black market for alcohol has not disappeared. 

In recent years, the share of illicit alcohol users has fallen to 2-4% of all alcohol consumers, and this has been in line with economic growth, which has generally reduced the motivation to drink illegally. According to the survey, in 2020, 2% of all alcohol consumers bought illegal alcohol. In previous years, buyers of illegal alcohol have accounted for 3-5% of alcohol consumers and, for example, in the period 2004-2010 up to 10%.

 

Purchases and consumption of alcohol by tourists in Estonia
Traditionally, foreign tourists have been a major influence on the Estonian alcohol market. The largest contingent of foreign tourists comes from Finland, and the northern neighbours also consume most of the alcohol sold to foreigners. However, the Covid-19 pandemic that hit the world last year radically changed the situation in the field of tourism as a whole, and due to the resulting restrictions, the visits of foreign tourists dropped dramatically. The quantities of alcohol consumed and purchased by tourists have also decreased significantly. 

 

According to EKI, alcohol purchases by foreign tourists from Estonia decreased by 43.3% in terms of absolute alcohol. In 2020, foreign tourists bought a total of 2.19 million liters of alcoholic beverages from Estonia as absolute alcohol (3.86 million liters in 2019), an estimated 1.39 million liters from stores and 0.79 million liters from ships. Foreign tourists bought 1.65 liters of alcohol for every Estonian resident and 1.97 liters of alcoholic drinks for every Estonian adult citizen.

Source: Alcohol market, consumption and harms in Estonia (2021)