cares alcohol-and-health how-the-monkeys-took-over-spirits-in-poland
Since 2013 a new phenomenon can be observed in Poland, the so called ‘monkeys’. It is a colloquial name for spirits sold in 100ml or 200 ml bottles. They are colourful and come in various tastes, in 2017 there were 40 taste varieties of ‘monkeys’. It is estimated that daily 3 million people buy them in Poland. Yearly, over 1 billion ‘monkeys’ are sold.
What is worrying however about this trend is the consumption pattern it created and could be drawing millions of Poles silently into alcohol dependency. These strong spirits consumed in small dosages have changed the attitudes and drinking patterns of Polish consumers.
What is adding to this explosive cocktail, is the price. ‘Monkeys’ are usually slightly more expansive than an average beer (although considerably higher in alcohol strength), leading some consumers to replace beers with stronger alcohol or mixing beer and spirits.
A report by Synergion, concluded that ‘little spirits’ had profound impact on consumption patterns and attitude towards alcohol.
According to sales personnel, the ‘monkeys’ are most popular among people developing a problematic relationship with alcohol and physical workers. But no single social group seems to be resilient to the convenience and perceived harmlessness of the product. Some salespeople report, white collar workers getting 100ml of spirits and yoghurts before going to work and coming back for another 100 or 200ml after work.
What worries experts even more is that these strong spirits in relatively small bottles are proving popular among young people.
However, it must be said that due to its availability, low price and handy size, ‘monkeys’ are a very egalitarian product. They are consumed by young and elderly, physical workers, professionals on their way to offices and in the evenings dog walkers (100ml/200ml making it a handy size for a 10-15 minutes stroll).
94% of consumers know exactly which product they want to purchase, and are buying it fast, hiding in their bags, pockets. Salespeople observe three waves throughout the day, 28% in the morning before work, then 36% after work, followed by a third wave of customers around 6pm, where 36% of purchase are made. It is estimated that 600 000 people buy ‘monkey’ twice a day.
Little bottle - little harm?
Little size of the bottles creates impression of greater sense of control and smaller impact of drinking on daily activities. Drinking little bottles of spirits, seems innocent, not noticeable and less harmless. But in a long term can lead to adaptation of the body to high-content alcohol and more frequent drinking.
Availability of monkeys everywhere (in local shops, petrol stations, supermarkets) creates the impression that drinking 200ml of spirits twice a day is normal and widespread. The ‘invisibility’ of this drinking for the environment also loosen up the social control mechanisms.
However, public health experts in Poland are concerned, they point out to the deceiving nature of the product. The drinking environment is also changing and instead of spirits being used to celebrate or reserved for special occasions, they became a part of everyday life.
‘Monkeys’ create a false sense of control of one’s drinking of spirits, making it easier to increase body’s tolerance to alcohol high in strength and ultimately lose control of one’s drinking.