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RTD consumption hits record high in Australia

New data from Roy Morgan’s Alcohol Consumption Report shows the pandemic passion in Australia for RTD drinks hasn’t receded, with a record number of people consuming them each month.

Overall, the proportion of Australians who drink alcohol dropped by 1.8% points to 67.9% in the 12 months to June 2022 as the country emerged from the pandemic and multiple lockdowns in 2020-21.

The number of Australians drinking wine, beer and spirits reached pandemic highs during 2021, but the short-term boost while people were stuck at home has now receded, aside from RTDs.

Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine said: “The standout performer of the last few years has been RTDs, which have kept increasing despite the ending of lockdowns and almost all pandemic-related restrictions. A record high 16.7% of Australians, up 3.2% points (+680,000) from a year ago, now drink RTDs in an average four weeks.

“A deeper look into the RTD market in Australia shows the increasing popularity of seltzers over the last few years is continuing to drive the increasing consumption of RTDs generally. ‘Hard seltzers’ began to hit the Australian market in significant numbers in 2019, just before the pandemic struck, and these newer alcoholic products are still attracting an increasing array of customers.”

Hard seltzer in Australia

The latest data from IRI shows the seltzer sub-category of the RTD market in Australia has grown a whopping 282% over the last year.

They have become a $210million category in Australia, taking a 16% of the share of the long-established light RTD category. IRI is bullish about the future prospects for seltzer – it predicts sales in Australia will hit $300 million by 2025.

The most popular alcohol in Australia

The findings are from the Roy Morgan Single Source consumer survey, derived from in-depth interviews with over 60,000 Australians each year.

In the year to June 2022 a total of 13,603,000 Australians (67.9%) aged 18+ consumed alcohol in an average four-week period, down from a pandemic high of 13,908,000 (69.7%) a year earlier.

The most popular alcohol is still wine, but the number of Australians drinking wine dropped from 9,237,000 Australians (46.3%) to 8,938,000 (44.6%) – a decrease of 1.7% points (-297,000) from a year ago.

Beer has also lost ground from its pandemic highs with 6,666,000 Australians (33.3%) now drinking beer, down 2.3% points (-428,000) on a year ago. Spirits are clearly the third favourite type of alcohol with 6,083,000 Australians (30.4%) now drinking spirits, down 2.8% points (-538,000) on mid-2021.

“The last two years have been tumultuous ones for all of us as the COVID-19 pandemic, which struck Australia in March 2020, led to rolling lockdowns around the country including six lockdowns totaling around nine months in Melbourne,” Levine said.

“The extensive disruption to people’s day-to-day lives, and the restrictions on travel for most of this time, led to several changes of behaviour. One of the most prominent was the increasing consumption of alcohol during the pandemic years of 2020-21.

“This short-term pandemic related trend has now come to an end though with overall consumption of alcohol declining from a high of 69.7% of Australian adults a year ago to 67.9% in the latest figures from June 2022. This is a decline of 1.8% points (-305,000) from a year ago.

“The ‘shock’ of the pandemic disrupted a longer-term trend of declining alcohol consumption amongst the Australian population which is now reasserting itself. In the year to June 2006 nearly three-quarters of Australian adults, 73.5%, drunk an alcoholic beverage in an average four weeks.

“Although the ‘big three’ alcohol types of wine, beer and spirits are all down on a year ago the consumption of wine and spirits is still well above pre-pandemic levels. Wine remains the most popular alcoholic drink with 44.6% of Australians adults drinking wine in an average four weeks. By age, those most likely to be drinking wine are aged 65-79 (51.1%), however only people aged 50-64 have increased their wine consumption from a year ago, up by 1.2% points.

“Beer did enjoy an increase in consumption during the last two years only 33.3% of Australian adults now drink beer in an average four weeks. The decline in beer drinking since 2005 has been more sustained than any other type of alcohol and the early signs are that the short-term pandemic impact on beer drinking has not been enough to halt the long-term trend.”

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