Australia

Off the grog: Australian drinking now at a 50-year low

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Off the grog: Australian drinking now at a 50-year low

Related tags: Alcoholic beverage, Euromonitor, Australia

Australians are drinking less alcohol now than at any time in the last 50 years, according to official figures. 

"Across all alcoholic beverages, there were 9.7 litres of pure alcohol available for consumption in 2013-14 for every person in Australia aged 15 years and over​," said Louise Gates of the  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). 

Consumption is now at its lowest level since the early 1960s, with long-term trends having changed significantly over the years.

It peaked in 1974-1975, when there were 13.09 litres of pure alcohol available per person. The most recent decline in consumption began in 2007-2008, dropping each year since then.

However, wine on the rise

"Fifty years ago, beer made up three quarters of all alcohol consumed, but it now makes up under half, at 41%​,” said Gates, adding that wine’s share has increased dramatically over the same period, from 12% to 38%.

Australians currently consume more white wine than red wine—270m litres compared to 190m litres in 2013-14—while full-strength remains the most popular variety of beer, accounting for around three quarters of all beer in that period.

"Over the past decade we have seen the popularity of mid-strength beer grow at the expense of low-strength beer​," said Gates. 

Mid-strength beer now makes up 19% of all beer consumed in Australia, while low-strength beer accounts for 5%.

Spirits, including ready-to-drink premixes, increased from 13% of all pure alcohol consumed in 1963-64 to 19 per cent in 2013-14. 

Cider accounted for a small but growing proportion, at two per cent in 2013-14.

Quality not quantity

Australian Liquor Stores Association chief executive Terry Mott said the figures showed there was no so-called “alcohol epidemic”, as critics have suggested.

Australians are drinking less in terms of quantity but of a better perceived quality​,” Mott said.

“This has led to the rise in craft beer and cider across the country with more people visiting cellar doors, boutique distilleries and breweries to appreciate the quality of the artisanship... and not the just the alcohol.”

In a separate study into global drinks industry trends, Euromonitor found that recent growth, which had hitherto largely driven by demand from emerging nations, continues to slow.

In 2014, total volume growth remained subdued for a second consecutive year at 0.8%, reaching 252bn litres. China grew 1.2%—among the lowest growth rates since the 1990s 

The seemingly unstoppable emerging market engine is beginning to stall​,” siad Spiros Malandrakis, a Euromonitor drinks analyst. 

Geographic diversification—or lack thereof—remains one of the defining factors determining top line success or failure​.”

Related topics: Markets, Beer, Wine, Spirits, Cider

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