Consumption of alcoholic beverages based on sales figures in Iceland was 2,015 thousand litres of pure alcohol in 2016 compared with 1,324 thousand litres in 2000 and 716 thousand in 1980. Measured in pure alcohol per capita 15 years and older the consumption was 7.50 litres in 2016, 6.14 in 2000 and 4.33 in 1980. The consumption has thus increased by 73% between the years 1980 and 2016 when considering pure alcohol litres per capita 15 years and older.
There was a slow increase in the consumption of alcoholic beverages during the period 1980–1988 increasing further in 1989 when the sale of beer was legalized in Iceland. This development was followed by decreased consumption for a few years but as of 1994 it increased gradually until the year 2007. Then it decreased again but only for a few years. The consumption reached a peak in 2015 with 7.66 litres of pure alcohol per capita 15 years and older. The great increase in the number of tourists visiting Iceland in recent years may explain some of the increase in the alcohol consumption.
The consumption measured in litres of pure alcohol per capita 15 years and older was 4.24 litres of beer in 2016, 2.09 litres of wine and 1.16 litres of spirits.
Beer is more than half of the total consumption of alcoholic beverages
The consumption of alcoholic beverages underwent a significant change following the legalization of beer in Iceland. In 1988 the share of spirits measured as pure alcohol was 77% and wine 23%. In 1989 the share of spirits dropped to 52% and wine to 14% whereas beer made up 34% of the total sale of alcoholic beverages in pure alcohol despite having been sold only for 10 months that year. The share of beer decreased for a while to then increase gradually again reaching a stable portion of approximately half of the total sales of alcoholic beverages measured as pure alcohol. In the year 2000 the share of beer was 49%, 22% for wine and 29% for spirits. In 2016 beer was 57% of the total sales of litres of pure alcohol. With this change in consumption patterns the share of spirits has decreased and is now 16%. Wine consumption decreased as well for a while but increased again and makes up 28% of total consumption of alcoholic beverages in pure alcohol in 2016.
A comparison with the Nordic countries
The consumption of alcoholic beverages measured as pure alcohol has fallen in Denmark, Faroe Islands and Greenland as well as somewhat in Finland since the year 2000. At the same time it has increased in Åland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden as illustrated in figure 3 which shows the number of litres of pure alcohol consumed per capita 15 years and older in 2000 and 2016. The fall is biggest in Greenland but the increase biggest in Iceland in this period.
2016: Denmark, Faroe Islands and Åland 2015, Sweden 2014.
Data sources and methods
After a break for some years, Statistics Iceland now resumes the publication of statistics on the consumption of alcoholic beverages following changes that have been made to data sources and statistical methods. Alcohol consumption is presently calculated as the volume of sold litres of pure alcohol based on information from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs on the taxation of import and domestic production of alcoholic beverages each year as well as information on sales of alcoholic beverages from the State Alcohol and Tobacco Company of Iceland (ÁTVR). Figures are published on the total consumption in litres of pure alcohol for the years 2008–2016 broken down by beer, wine and spirits.
Statistics on alcohol consumption have undergone various changes through the years but are based on sales data. Results for the years 1995–2007 cover the sales of The State Alcohol and Tobacco Company of Iceland and the sales of licence holders according to their reports to Statistics Iceland. This was followed by a pause in publishing data on alcohol consumption by Statistics Iceland until now.
The figures on quantity do not take into account alcohol imported by ship and aircraft crews and tourists entering the country, alcohol exported by the ÁTVR and others or alcohol sold to the Duty Free Store at Keflavík Airport.