New data from Roy Morgan shows that overall alcohol consumption in Australia has remained unchanged during COVID-19. However, there have been category winners and losers when it comes to Australia’s favourite drinks.
The Alcohol Report, powered by Roy Morgan Single Source, draws on tens of thousands of interviews with Australian adults including detailed questions about their alcohol consumption over the previous four-week period.
The data shows wine is the most popular alcoholic drink, ahead of beer; and younger drinkers are more likely to favour spirits than older counterparts.
Currently, an estimated 13.2 million Australians – 66.4% of the adult population – drink alcohol in one form or another in an average four weeks (33.6% don’t). The percentage of people consuming alcohol continues to fall, dropping from 73.5% in 2006 and 68.2% in 2015.
When the market is considered in a holistic sense Australians are drinking in excess of 400 million glasses of alcohol in an average four weeks, virtually unchanged on a year ago.
Roy Morgan CEO, Michele Levine, said: “Just under two-thirds of Australians enjoy an alcoholic beverage in an average four-week period, down from almost three-quarters who did so 15 years ago.
“The depth and longevity of our data collection allows us to see some interesting changes in terms of choice of beverage. Back in 2006, just 2.1% of drinkers had chosen cider in the previous four weeks. By 2017 it was fashionable enough to peak at 13.4% but as of September 2020 it is down to 9.2%. Spirits, however, have trended upwards, consumed by 25.3% of alcohol drinkers in 2006 and 30.8% now.
“The majority of alcohol drinkers (66%) drink lightly or moderately, but the disproportionate consumption by those classified as heavy drinkers (29+ drinks in an average four weeks) is striking: just 34% of drinkers are responsible for 77% of all alcohol consumed.”
Australia’s most popular alcoholic beverage
When it comes to Australia’s favourite drinks, 43% of adult Australians drank wine in an average four weeks, followed by beer at 35.2% and spirits at 30.8%.
There is a distinct split between the sexes with women preferring wine, men preferring beer. 47.4% of women consume wine in an average four-week period, compared to 38.4% of men, and 54.3% of men drink beer, compared to only 17.8% of women.
There are also differences in the most popular beverages across different age groups, with more 18-24 year-olds choosing spirits (37.5%) than other types of alcohol, compared to 35-49 year-olds and 50-64 year-olds, for whom wine is the top choice (41.9% and 47.3%, respectively).
Those who drink alcohol were classified as light, medium or heavy drinkers, based on the number of drinks they had consumed in a four-week period: 1-7 drinks for a light drinker, 8-28 for a medium drinker and 29+ for a heavy drinker. While heavy drinkers represent only 34% of all drinkers, they account for a full 77% of all the alcohol that is consumed. Men are far more likely to drink heavily than women, with 42% of men reporting heavy drinking levels compared to 25% of women.
Off-premise up, on-premise down
At IRI’s recent Australian State of the Industry webinar, Daniel Bone, Insights Director at IRI, said consumers had become accustomed to staying at home during lockdowns and restrictions. ‘Stay-at-home nesting’ underpinned most behavioural changes he had seen, including a rise in e-commerce and cooking meals from scratch.
Bone said there had been a fivefold increase in “hospitality avoiders”. Pre-COVID, only 10% of consumers surveyed hadn’t visited bars or restaurants in person in the prior four weeks. However, in August/September that number had risen to 51%.
Among the consumers surveyed, 33% were spending less time at their usual workplace
due to COVID-19 and wanted to continue working from home. As a result, IRI predicts elevated in-home FMCG consumption will be an “enduring trend”.
Pictured main: John Graham and Emma Hosking were unable to have a traditional romantic meal at their favourite restaurant to celebrate their engagement due to lockdowns. So Seppelt partnered with Crown Melbourne in June to give the couple their dream engagement meal – at leading Melbourne restaurant Bistro Guillaume Melbourne, complete with its Drumborg Vineyard Riesling.