Proportion of Australians drinking declines

11 February, 2019 by Andy Young

A new report from Roy Morgan has highlighted a gradual decline in the percentage of the Australian population aged 18 and over who consume at least one type of alcoholic drink over an average four-week period.

Roy Morgan’s Alcohol Consumption Currency Report September 2018 showed that 67.9 per cent of Australians 18 and over had at least one drink in an average four week period, compared to 70.1 per cent in 2013.

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The report also detailed the type and volume of alcohol drunk and showed declines over the four-week period for all major categories of alcoholic drinks, except for cider, which recorded growth.

Wine is consumed by 43.3 per cent of the 18+ Australian population over an average four week period, ahead of beer with 38.4 per cent and spirits on 26.7 per cent. Cider is now consumed by 12.3 per cent which has increased from 10.3 per cent five years ago, making it the only type to increase. The incidence of cider drinkers is now ahead of RTD (11.4 per cent), Liqueurs (7.2 per cent) and Fortified Wine (5.2 per cent).

Over the last five years the biggest decline was for wine (down 1.3 per cent), followed by RTD (down 0.9 per cent) and Liqueurs (down 0.8 per cent). Beer only showed a decline of 0.5 per cent and as a result closed the gap marginally to wine.

Michele Levine, Chief Executive Officer, Roy Morgan said: “There is a gradual social change in Australia over the last five years in terms of a declining incidence of alcohol consumption. This is evident by the fact that five years ago 70.1 per cent of Australians 18 and over consumed an alcoholic drink over an average four week period; this has now declined to 67.9 per cent currently. The potential reasons for this decline are likely to be as a result of switching to healthier options, cost, social issues involved such as drink driving and alternative drug taking.

“With the overall decline in Australians consuming alcoholic drinks has also come changes in the types of drinks they consume. Although beer retains its top position for market share (45.2 per cent) in terms of volume consumed, over the last five years this has declined by 2.9 per cent, with gains largely going to wine, up 2.3 per cent and cider up 1.0 per cent.

“The retailing of alcohol has also undergone significant change over the last five years with supermarkets (including all the outlets they own), now accounting for 75 per cent of market turnover, an increase from 73.3 per cent 12 months ago. The Woolworths Group (including Dan Murphy’s and BWS) are the clear market leaders having increased their market share over the last year from 49.0 per cent up to 52.1 per cent.”

Although wine is the most popular alcoholic drink in terms of the number of drinkers, beer is the top in terms of volume, accounting for 45.2 per cent of the volume of alcoholic drinks consumed, well ahead of wine (28.3 per cent) and spirits (13.4 per cent).

Since 2013 gains in share of volume were seen for wine (up 2.3%), cider (up 1.0%) and spirits (up 0.4%). Losses in share were greatest for beer (down 2.9% points) and RTDs (down 1.0% points).

The report mirrors comments made in the 2018 ALSA-IRI State of the Industry Report, which pointed to the impact of immigration on Australia’s retail liquor market.

“Australia’s population is growing by 240,000 net overseas migration annually creating further influences on overall consumption patterns and beverage choices,” the ALSA-IRI report said.

“They come from different cultures with varied attitudes, beliefs and rules about drinking than Australia’s historical immigrants and different preferences than Australia’s historical immigrants creating new opportunities for Australia’s producers and liquor retailers.”

The report pointed to abstinence rates in India and China of 85 per cent and 56 per cent respectively, compared to around 20 per cent in Australia, and 93 per cent spirits consumption in India and 69 per cent in China, compared to 13 per cent in Australia.