Australians have been consuming progressively less alcohol per capita for the past six years, as the population ages and people become more fussy with their drinks.
Market research from IBIS World forecasts that Australian per capital alcohol consumption will fall 7.7% from the 2007-08 peak of 10.4 litres to 9.6 litres this year.
Liqour retailer revenues will grow 15.6% to $17.7 billion during that time.
According to NAB’s agribusiness economist Vyanne Lai and one liqour industry insider, here’s why:
1. The rise of mid-strength drinks
Mid-strength beers like VB Gold, XXXX Gold and Coopers Mild Ale have won a growing share of the liquor retailing market, so the amount of alcohol that Australians consume per beer has fallen.
About 1 in 4 beers consumed are now lower than full-strength. Mid-strength beers are generally 3.5% alcohol, compared to the 4.8% of full-strength beers.
2. People prefer premium drinks
Australian beer drinkers tended to choose from 2-3 favourite brands about 15 years ago. One industry expert says they now choose from about 7-10 different brands.
NAB’s Lai says Australians are buying more expensive alcoholic drinks like cider and boutique beers: products that often come in packs of 4, not 6, and tend to be associated with a quality-over-quantity mentality.
3. Demographic changes and an ageing population
Earlier this year, the ABS reported that the average Australian was a 37-year-old female sales assistant in 2011, compared to a 29-year-old male clerk in 1961.
People tend to drink in mixed groups, in more family-friendly, food-driven venues where they’re less likely to be drinking heavily.
Also, Lai notes that Australia has welcomed increasing numbers of migrants from China and India, where heavy drinking is less common.
“Anecdotally, the new additions to the population pool may be less inclined to consume large volumes of alcohol,” she said.
“If their alcohol consumption is less than the average population, then they will tend to bring the average down.”
4. Fewer tradies, more professionals
One industry expert points towards a shift from manual to professional labour as one factor that’s driving down overall alcohol consumption per capita in Australia.
Professionals spend more time socialise for work than with mates, and drink less as a result because getting drunk in front of colleagues may be frowned upon.
5. Tougher drink driving laws and advertising
IBIS World notes that drink driving laws and advertisements have made Australians more wary of driving while inebriated.
Drink driving has become less culturally acceptable, which has the effect of bringing per capita alcohol consumption down.
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