Aussies give their verdict on low-alcohol beer

There’s a lot of talk about low-alcohol beer being the new normal for Australian drinkers, but Roy Morgan says its data shows full-strength beer is still the preferred amber fluid.

The results are from Roy Morgan’s Alcohol Consumption Report, with findings gleaned from the Roy Morgan Single Source survey, which is derived from in-depth interviews with 50,000 Australians each year.

CEO Michele Levine says the enforced closure of hospitality venues such as pubs, hotels and bars during the nationwide and extended Victorian lockdowns during 2020 had a big impact on Australian drinking habits with beer looking to ‘bounce back’ during 2021.

“The drinking habits of Australians were heavily impacted by the restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020 with number of Australians consuming wine, spirits and RTDs increasing while the number drinking beer decreased.

“However, by ‘share of alcohol volume consumed’ beer remains the clear leader and represented well over 40% of all alcohol consumed by Australians during 2020 – nearly as much as the alcohol volume of wine and spirits combined.

“The popularity of beer as a drink rests on its popularity with men, for which it is the number one alcohol for all age groups and consumed by over 50% of men aged 25-34, 35-49 and 50+.

“The core of the beer market is full-strength beer with an alcohol by volume (ABV) content of at least 4.5%. Nearly half of all men, 45.9%, consume full strength beer compared to only 13.9% drinking mid strength beer (3.5% – 4.5% ABV) and 4.6% that consume low-alcohol beer (less than 3.5% ABV).

“Although there has been a great deal of media attention on the new craze of ‘hard seltzers’ – soda water spiked with alcohol and a fruit flavour that is lower in calories and carbohydrates than other alcoholic beverages, these RTDs in a can represent only a tiny fraction of the alcohol market compared to beer, and particularly full strength beer.”

The results fly in the face of recent news reports. Good Food noted recently that Canberra’s Heaps Normal, a non-alcoholic brewer, has the best-selling beer at many bottle shops and bars across the country. 

“Heaps Normal’s Quiet XPA is now online store Beer Cartel‘s best-selling product nationally out of more than 1000 beers,” the article said.

“In Sydney it is the highest selling beer at P&V Wine + Liquor Merchants in Newtown and Paddington, the best selling product at Porter’s Balgowlah, and the most popular tinned beer at Forrester’s hotel in Surry Hills.”  

Roy Morgan highlights Coopers’ new release

Levine said the recent launch of the Coopers Australian IPA was aimed squarely at fans of full-strength craft beer with a higher than usual ABV of 6.5%.

“Coopers has been Australia’s largest locally-owned brewery since 2011 and the ‘Australian IPA’ joins several other Cooper’s products in the full-strength beer category including Coopers Sparkling Ale (5.8% ABV), Coopers XPA (Extra Pale Ale) with 5.2% ABV, Coopers Vintage Ale (7.5% ABV), Cooper’s Best Extra Stout (6.3% ABV) and the market-leading Coopers Original Pale Ale (4.5% ABV),” she said.

Other popular full-strength beers in the Australian market are Corona Extra (4.6% ABV), Asahi Super Dry (5.2% ABV) and Carlton Draught (4.6% ABV).

Over a third of all Australians aged 18+, 6,277,000 (34.6%), drank beer in an average four weeks from January to December 2020, including at least one of the three varieties of full strength, mid strength and low alcohol beer – second only to wine as the alcoholic drink of choice for Australians.

Nearly a third of Australians aged 18+ (30.2%) consumed full-strength beer in an average four weeks in 2020, down 3.1% points from 2019 (33.3%). This is not surprising as the pandemic hit the hospitality industry heavily and kept many pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants closed for an extended period. In Victoria most drinking establishments were closed for at least six months and some have closed permanently.

In comparison, only 8.6% of Australians consumed mid-strength beer (down 2.2% points on 2019) and just 2.8% (down 1.1% points) had low-alcohol beer in an average four weeks during 2020.

Men are the main consumers of beer with over half (52.4%) consuming beer in 2020 compared to only 17.5% of women. The ratio is very similar for full-strength beer with nearly half of men, 45.9%, consuming full strength beer in 2020 compared to only 15.2% of women.

Less than one-in-seven men (13.9%) drink mid strength beer and only 4.6% drink low alcohol beer. Even fewer women (3.5%) drink mid-strength beer and just 1.1% of women drink low-alcohol beer.

Full strength beer is heavily preferred by Australian beer drinkers of all ages – and especially those aged 18-49. Over a third of 18-24yr olds (33.9%), 25-34yr olds (34.2%) and a third of 35-49yr olds (33.3%) drink full-strength beer. Only around a quarter (25.7%) of Australians aged 50+ drink full-strength beer.

Perhaps more mindful of protecting their health Australians aged 50+ are more likely to drink mid-strength beer (9.4%) and low-alcohol beer (3.9%) than any of the younger age groups.

The year Aussies drank the most beer in the world

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