New data from Roy Morgan’s Alcohol Consumption Report shows RTD consumption has continued to increase and is now at a record high in Australia.
Consumption increased from 2,138,000 Australians (10.8%) pre-pandemic up to 4,208,000 (20.8%) in the 12 months to March 2023.
A ‘waterfall chart’ of consumption of RTDs by age group shows these drinks are clearly most popular among younger Australians with over one-in-two aged 18-24 (56.5%) and 25-34 (50.5%) drinking an RTD in the 12 months to March 2023.
RTDs are also popular with people aged 35-49 with more than one-in-three Australians aged 35-39 (39.5%), 40-44 (39.7%) and 45-49 (38.4%) now drinking an RTD in the 12 months to March 2023.
The growth for the new category of alcoholic/hard seltzers shows that exciting new alcoholic products can make an almost immediate impact on the marketplace.
Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine said: “A record high 20.8% of Australians now drink RTDs in an average four weeks. This is up 5.8% points (+1,203,000) from a year ago and almost doubling, up 10% points (+2,070,000), from March 2020.
“A deeper look into the RTDs market shows the increasing popularity of many drinks in this category including vodka, tequila, white rum, dark rum, whisky, cognac and also newer entrants such as alcoholic/hard seltzers which began to hit the Australian market in significant numbers in 2019, just before the pandemic struck.”
Global growth for RTD category
The latest global data from IWSR on RTD consumption shows the category grew +2% by volume in 2022, compared to historical growth of +20% volume CAGR, 2018-2021.
The US market decelerated sharply, with growth in cocktails, hard tea, and flavoured alcohol beverages (which collectively grew +14%, 2021-2022) unable to offset the 10% volume decline in hard seltzers.
The global RTD category is expected to grow by +3% volume CAGR, 2022-2027. Top sources of future RTD growth are flavoured alcohol beverages in Japan, as well as cocktails, long drinks, flavoured alcohol beverages and hard tea in the US.
Wine the most popular alcohol
The most popular alcohol in the 12 months to March 2023 was wine, which has stretched its lead during the pandemic with the number of Australians drinking wine increasing from 8,096,000 (41%) pre-pandemic to 8,898,000 (43.9%) in the 12 months to March 2023 – an increase of over 800,000 people.
“Although the ‘big three’ alcohol types of wine, beer and spirits are all down on a year ago the consumption of wine is still well above pre-pandemic levels,” Levine said.
“Wine remains the most popular alcoholic drink with 43.9% of Australians adults drinking wine in an average four weeks. By age, those most likely to be drinking wine are aged 50-64 (49.9%) and 65-79 (49.6%).”
The spirits category enjoyed a clear ‘pandemic boost’ of over 1 million extra consumers and in the 12 months to December 2021 there were 6,759,000 (33.8%) of Australians drinking spirits, however this ‘boost’ has now receded. There are now 5,573,000 (27.5%) Australians drinking spirits, down slightly from 5,671,000 (28.7%) pre-pandemic.
In contrast to wine and RTDs, the major category that hasn’t been able to arrest a long-term decline is the beer category. Although consumption of beer did increase during the early stages of the pandemic this momentum quickly dissipated.
Now under a third of Australians, 6,537,000 (32.2%) consume beer, down significantly from the 7,413,000 (37.6%) who did so in the 12 months to March 2020 just before the pandemic struck and turned the world upside down during much of the past three years.
“Although beer did enjoy an increase in consumption during 2021, now only 32.2% of Australian adults drink beer in an average four weeks, down significantly by 5.4% points from pre-pandemic in March 2020 – the largest decline of any form of alcohol,” Levine said.
“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.
“Roy Morgan will be keeping a close eye on the post-pandemic trends we are already seeing in the alcohol market during 2022-23. The emerging trends suggest consumption of wine and spirits looks set to return to pre-pandemic levels while RTDs such as vodka, gin, bourbon and rum have been on a sharp rise in recent years and that trend could well continue at the expense of beer consumption which has continued its long-term decline.”
In the year to March 2023 a total of 13,709,000 Australians (67.6%) aged 18+ consumed alcohol in an average four-week period compared to 13,073,000 (66.3%) in the year to March 2020.
The findings are from the Roy Morgan Single Source survey, derived from in-depth interviews with over 60,000 Australians each year.