By James Atkinson
Diageo Australia managing director Tim Salt believes per capita alcohol consumption is falling only because of short-term economic factors, but Australian Liquor Stores Association (ALSA) life member Mal Higgs believes healthier lifestyles are playing a part.
Released in June, the latest ABS figures once again showed per capita alcohol consumption had dropped, this time by 2.6 per cent on the previous year.
At last week's ALSA conference, Salt said the decline in consumption over the last 18 months could be attributed solely to a lack of consumer confidence.
"If you look back, before the global financial crisis, for every dollar that somebody earned of disposable income they were spending $1.04, so they were actually borrowing against mortgages to spend and consume," he said.
"Now you're seeing that figure has dropped to something like 90 cents in the dollar."
"People are making conscious decisions on where they are spending their money, or not spending it."
But Higgs said that while he couldn't back it up with statistics, he senses falling consumption is partly down to "people realising that they are going to be living longer, due to the innovation in the healthcare industry".
"Therefore, they want to have a healthier lifestyle, and drinking less alcohol is part of that," he said.
Salt responded: "Mal may have a point, but there's nothing in the data at the moment that suggests to me that there's been a structural shift in the industry, as opposed to a short-term blip that's caused by economic challenges."