Finland - Availability
On 1 January 2018, the maximum strength of alcoholic beverages sold in retail stores was raised to 5.5% alcohol by volume, and the requirement for production by fermentation was removed. This means that grocery shops, kiosks and petrol stations can sell also strong beers and ciders and long drink beverages produced by adding strong alcoholic beverages. That change lifted the 4.7-per cent limit that has been in force since the 1960s. The new Alcohol Act was voted in December 2017 with a result of 98-94 to back the change, even though Parliament’s own committee for social affairs and health, and other lawmakers opposed lifting the limit. The Social Affairs and Health Committee of the Parliament had recommended that the current limit of 4.7 % be kept, and a professor at Helsinki University called the raising of the limit “the worst decision in his lifetime.”
As of 1 January 2018, independent breweries and microbreweries have the right to sell their own craft beers at the brewery in the same way as producers of fruit wine and sahti can sell their products. Microbreweries will be allowed to produce up to 500,000 litres of alcoholic beverages. Craft beers cannot be produced by mixing beer with soft drinks, for example.
The Act will give the existing stores on wheels the right to sell alcoholic beverages and allow Alko to serve customers in its stores on wheels.
The opening hours of Alko stores will be extended by one hour, from 20 to 21. Alko stores will also be able to organise wine auctions, for example.
Restaurants will be allowed to share serving areas. The system of temporary serving licences will be replaced by a system with less administrative burden. The so-called catering permits will allow restaurants and bars to serve alcoholic beverages in pre-approved business premises, venues and festivals after they have submitted notice of this to the relevant regional state administrative agency.
The regular serving hours still end at 1.30am. However, restaurants and bars can continue to serve alcohol until 4.00am after notifying the regional state administrative agency of the extension. There is no longer any licensing process. However, restaurants and bars have new obligations to maintain public order. Restaurants and bars are no longer obligated to close their doors half an hour after their serving hours have ended. However, they have to make sure that their customers consume their drinks within one hour of the end of serving. The authorities have the power to restrict or prohibit serving of alcohol to prevent public disturbances.
In March 2019 Alko announced that it sold a total of 85.3 million litres of alcoholic beverages in 2018, signalling a drop of 8.5 per cent from the previous year. Last year its net sales decreased by roughly 20 million euros to 1,155 million euros and net sales without alcohol tax by roughly 30 million euros to 565 million euros. Its operating profit, meanwhile, decreased by over six million euros to 46 million euros between 2017 and 2018. The primary reason for the noticeable decrease in sales was the introduction of beverages with an alcohol content of 4.7–5.5 per cent to the shelves of grocery shops.
Source: Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
What have been the results of the 2018 Alcohol Act?
Already in January of 2018, the Helsinki Sanomat newspaper wrote that the surprising consequence of the Finnish alcohol law is that Swedish young people drive across the border to Tornio for stronger drinks. In Sweden, alcoholic beverages with strength up to 3.5 per cent are in food stores available. Especially in the stores of Tornio, there has been a rise in the sale of long drinks. The increase in beer sale has been around fifth compared to previous periods.
In February 2018 sales of beers, ciders and pre-mixed long drinks by Finland's state-owned alcohol retailer Alko dropped significantly in the first month after grocery stores were allowed to sell stronger beverages, compared to a year earlier.
In August 2018 it was reported that the Police responded to over 12,000 more callouts between January and July than they did in previous years, according to the National Police Board. The administrators are drawing a straight line between the increase in reported disturbances and new alcohol law reforms which took effect from 1 March this year.
New figures in January 2019 from Alko show that sales by volume declined by 8.5 per cent and – when converted into pure alcohol – by 5.4 per cent last year, compared to 2017.
The overall sale of alcohol in Finland has been in decline since 2011, but in 2018 that figure went up slightly, the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira) reported in February 2019. That minor adjustment, raising the alcohol limit on alcoholic drinks sold in supermarkets to 5.5 per cent brought a sales uptick for the first time in six years, even though the growth was just 0.6 per cent from 2017. In terms of 100 per cent pure alcohol, the total per capita consumption - of people over the age of 15 - in 2018 was 10.4 litres.
Researchers have said that it is too early to tell what the exact results of the law change are. "Even three years may sometimes be too short a time for an assessment: the sales of ciders and long drinks started in grocery shops in 1995, and at the time consumer behaviour did not change until five years after the law had come into effect. We modelled the changes now due to high demand for a short-term, intermediate assessment of changes," explained Pia Mäkelä, a research professor at THL in May 2019.
In December 2019 the Statistic of Finland announced that mortality from alcohol-related causes made a slight upturn in 2018 compared to 2017. In 2018, altogether 1,683 persons died from alcohol-related diseases and alcohol poisonings. Of them, 1,269 were men and 414 women. The number increased by 125 from the year before.
Alcoholic beverages are also sold in licensed restaurants and bars but only for consumption on the premises. Alko is required by law to sell drinks with lower alcohol content than 5.5% and non-alcoholic alternatives, but in practice carries a very limited stock of low alcohol beer, cider and non-alcoholic drinks and others as supermarkets are allowed to sell those at a substantially lower price. By law, alcoholic drinks may only be sold to those aged 18 or above. There were 352 Alko shops in 2016.
Mon–Thu 9–21 or 9–18
Sat 9–18 or 9–16
All stores are closed on Sundays. Some stores open at 10:00, and the opening hours of certain stores vary depending on the season.
Detailed information for 2019 can be found HERE
A 20-year-old can buy all alcoholic beverages.
18–19-year-olds can buy alcoholic beverages with a maximum 22% alcohol content.
The majority of Finns support the alcohol monopoly. Recently, however, particularly expectations on allowing grocery stores to sell wine have increased. This has not happened for some time. As regards spirits, the monopoly system enjoys strong support. In practice, maintaining the monopoly system only as the sales channel for spirits is an unlikely option, Simply because of the cost structure: selling would require government subvention. It has been difficult to clearly communicate the fact that from the viewpoint of the EU Commission, such a change is hardly possible any more if Finland wants to keep its monopoly system.