From ban on home distilling to Prohibition
Home distilling was banned, but factories were permitted to produce alcoholic beverages, and new destilleries were set up at a brisk pace. Sales of alcoholic beverages werer allowed in ordinary shops but regulation began gradually. At the turn of the century, the number os shops selling alcoholic beverages totalled 1,066 in Finnish cities.
The State prohibited distribution of alcoholic beverages on account of the First World War. Only first-class restaurants were allowed to serve alcoholic beverages.
Prohibition came into force on 1 June 1919, forbidding the production, transportation, sale and storage of alcohol. A state-owned company Valtion Alkoholiliike was set up to handle the trade in alcohol required for medical, technical and scientific purposes.
Parliament repealed the Prohibition Act with a vote of 120 to 45 and ratified the Alcohol Act on 9 February 1932. In the preceding referendum the anti-prohibitionists were in a clear majority, with over 70 per cent of the votes. The state-owned company Oy Alkoholiliike Ab was granted an exclusive monopoly on the import, export, manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. The company started to operate on 5 April 1932 at 10 am.
In 1931, an advisory vote was arranged on Prohibition in which more than 70 percent of the voters supported repealing the Prohibition Act.
From the establishment of Alko to modern times
Parliament voted 120–45 in support of repealing the Prohibition Act, and the Alcohol Act was approved on 9 February 1932. The state-owned alcohol company was given the sole right to import, export, produce and sell alcoholic beverages.
The first 48 shops selling alcoholic beverages were opened at 10.00 a.m. on 5 April 1932, 47 of them in cities and one in the rural municipality of Rovaniemi.
When the Winter War started, sales of alcoholic beverages were restricted through a number of measures: for instance, provincial governors could prohibit retailand on-premises sales of alcohol either temporarily ot totally.
The quantity of alcoholic beverages allowed to be bought at one time was limited.
As a consequence of raw material shortages, illegal sales and restless conditions, September 1943 saw shops in Helsinki start issuing certificates that entitled the holder to buy alcoholic beverages in a specified shop. This system was described as 'shopper monitoring' and spread gradually, soon becoming national practice. This marked the introduction of what was perhaps the best-known control instrument of all time in Finland's alcohol system – the 'booze card'.
On a recommendation by Parliament, the 'booze card' was turned into an instrument of social control. All purchases were recorded.
Wines werer released from buyer monitoring.
In the 1950s, two major changes took place: a cashier system was adopted and consumption began to be directed towards milder beverages.
With Sweda cash registers, the sales assistant became responsible for the entire sale including payment. The outlook of the shops changed and the bottles were placed standing up on shelves.
Strong beverages were freed from buyer monitoring. Long drinks were introduced at the time of the Helsinki Olympic Games in 1952.
In the Olympic year Alko had 92 shops and a sales staff of 974, 215 of them in buyer monitoring duties. Alcohol consumption per capita was 1.41 litres of 100 per cent alcohol.
The company's 100th shop was opened in Eerikinkatu, Turku, on 1 April 1957.
The buyer monitoring organisation was dismantled, but the shop certificate, or the 'booze card', remained.
A wine campaign was launched in order to direct consumption towards milder beverages and to reduce drinking to the point of intoxication. The prices of wines were lowered substantially and even those of fortified wines came down by a few per cent. The prices of spirits were correspondingly raised by a few per cent. Wine departments and broschures illustrating ways of using wines were introduced in the shops. Alko`s customer magazine, Viiniposti, nowadays Etiketti, was born in 1965.
The first self-service wine shop was opened in Vanha Kauppakuja, Pohjoisesplanadi, Helsinki.
The number of shops stood at 130, with a staff of 965. Consumption of 100 per cent alcohol was 2.88 litres per capita.
A new Act on alcoholic beverages and medium beer came into force on 1 January 1969: it allowed shops selling alcoholic beverages to be established in the countryside. The previous age limit of 21 was amended so that 18-year-olds were allowed to buy wines and 20-year-olds all alcoholic beverages. The age limits are still the same.
Medium beer was released for sale in more than 17,000 food shops. The establishment of new restaurants serving medium beer, their number being 2,716 in 1969. Oy Alkoholiliike Ab was converted into Oy Alko Ab.
The 'booze card' was phased out for good. The first Alko self-service shop to function next to a food supermarket was opened in Espoo.
The Wine Campaign was expanded into a consumer information campaign. Apart from wines, information was provided on all alcoholic beverages and the appropriate use of them. Information on the adverse effects of alcohol and the grounds for the alcohol policy also began to be disseminated.
Growing alcohol consumption hardened the attitude towards alcohol, and serious consideration was given to transferring sales of medium beer back to Alko. Alcohol advertising was forbidden and Alko shops were closed on summer Saturdays for a trial period. The company's 200th shop was opened in Rajamäki on 17 January 1977.
In december, the Finnish Government adopted the EU view that Alko's sole retailing right could continue in the future on the basis of social and health policy grounds but that all other sub-sectors of the sole right were to be dismantled. This required amending both the Act on Excise Duty on Alcohol and Alcoholic Beverages and the Alcohol Act.
Finland joined the European Economic Area. A new Alcohol Act came into force on 1 July and was amended on 1 January 1995. Under the new Act, Finland went over from taxation based on the value of beverages to tax calculated on the basis of alcohol content and volume.
A group was formed at the beginning of 1995, comprising Alko Inc., which engaged in retailing under a sole right; Primalco Ltd, which engaged in industry and exports; and the parent company, Alko Group Ltd, which owned Alko and Primalco. A restaurant company was also made an Alko Group subsidiary.
Retail sales of beverages containing more than 4.7 per cent alcohol by volume remained the sole right of Alko Inc., with the exception of Finnish farm wineries.
Alko's status as the authority governing the alcohol industry was terminated. These official duties were transferred to the National Product Control Agency for Welfare and Health.
The changes that came into force in 1995 were caused by Finland's accession to the European Economic Area.
An agreement was reached between Finland and the European Community under which the import regulations for alcoholic beverages were to be harmonised between Finland and the EU by the beginning of 2004.
It was decided that Alko Inc. was to be separated from Alko Group.
Alko Inc. started operations as an independent state-owned company with the Ministry os Social Affairs and Health as the supervisory ministry.
Alko celebrated its 70th anniversary. It had 299 shops.
Alko's 300th shop was opened on January 22, 2003 in Turku.
The operating environment of the alcohol trade changed. At the beginning of the year, general EU regulations on imports of alcoholic beverages byt travellers came into force. Finland's tax on alcoholic beverages was lowered on 1 March 2004.
At the end of 2004 Alko had 320 shops. From the very beginning, Alko has been involved in the National Alcohol Programme 2004–2007, which aims primarily at preventing and reducing the harmful effects of alcohol in cooperation with the various government administrative branches, municipal organisations and business and industry.
In 2004 , the restructuring that took place in sales as a result of tax cuts on alcoholic beverages resulted in significant increases in sales in terms of 100 per cent alcohol: after the tax cuts, sales were 13 percent higher than perviously.
Alko celebrated its 75th anniversary on 5 April 2007.
Tax on alcoholic beverages was increased.
The Board of Alko decided to transfer Alko's pension insurance from Alko's own pension fund to be managed by private insurance companies. At the end of year 2010 Alko had 343 shops and 116 order points.
At the end of year 2011 Alko had 348 shops. Five new shops were opened and 21 shops were moved to a new location. 110 order points complimented the shop network.
Alko celebrated its 80th anniversary on 5 April 2012