Toolkit for Assessing the Unrecorded Alcohol Market

Challenges to studying the unrecorded market

Some of the main challenges to understanding the unrecorded market include the following:

  • Unrecorded alcohol typically evades regulatory frameworks and is not explicitly captured by official statistics, which make assessments of the size of this market segment difficult.
  • Further complicating matters, traces of “unrecorded products” may be captured in some official statistics. Some products start in the legitimate and recorded supply chain but later exit, as is the case with products intended for duty-free shops that are diverted and sold elsewhere. In addition, some products are produced outside of the recorded supply chain but then enter into it when sold, as is the case, for example, with so-called “third shift"[1] alcohol in Russia.
  • Countries with larger unrecorded alcohol markets generally fall into the low- and middle-income categories, and tend to have less developed infrastructures for data collection and analysis. In many cases, the infrastructure for enforcement, which can also generate data, is similarly weak. Additionally, these countries might also have complicated alcohol tax structures, which often make both monitoring and enforcement difficult.
  • Even in countries with well-developed data collection capabilities, the types and quality of data collected and available for use by researchers can differ widely, making a comprehensive assessment of the size of the market and comparisons across countries difficult and unreliable.
  • Not all of the approaches to measuring the unrecorded market segment are equally well suited to capturing its various sub-segments, the proportional share of which may differ substantially from country to country.
  • Finally, the terminology and definitions used by governments, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector, and researchers to describe the unrecorded market and its sub-segments are often inconsistent.


[1] In Russia, the term “third shift” is used to describe alcohol that is illegally produced by otherwise legitimate manufacturers. It is not reported to authorities in order to evade taxes.