Roy Morgan: Aussies’ Alcohol Intake Now Higher Than Before COVID Driven By Wine & RTD Sales

Roy Morgan: Aussies’ Alcohol Intake Now Higher Than Before COVID Driven By Wine & RTD Sales

New data from Roy Morgan’s Alcohol Consumption Report shows the proportion of Australians who drink alcohol was at 67.6 per cent in the 12 months to March 2023, up by 1.3 per cent points since the pre-pandemic period in the 12 months to March 2020 (66.3 per cent).

The number of Australians drinking wine, beer and spirits reached pandemic highs during 2021 as Australians were stuck at home for extended periods during the many lockdowns that different parts of the country experienced. However, consumption of RTDs (Ready-to-drink) has continued to increase and is now at a record high.

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 – an increase of well over 600,000 Australians.

The standout alcoholic beverages over the course of the pandemic have been ‘Ready-to-drink’ (RTDs) for which consumption increased from 2,138,000 Australians (10.8%) pre-pandemic up to 4,208,000 (20.8%) – a massive increase during the pandemic of over 2 million people.

The most popular alcohol is wine which has stretched its lead during the pandemic with the number of Australians drinking wine increasing from 8,096,000 (41.0%) pre-pandemic to 8,898,000 (43.9%) in the 12 months to March 2023 – an increase of over 800,000 people.

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.

Growth in popularity of RTDs (Ready-to-drink) driven by people under 50

The most significant driver of the increase in consumption of alcohol compared to pre-pandemic is the increasing popularity of RTDs (Ready-to-drink).

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 growing popularity of RTDs over the last three years is built on increases across many discrete market categories including white spirits such as vodka, gin, white rum and tequila, dark spirits such as whisky, bourbon, dark rum, brandy and cognac and also newer categories including alcoholic/hard seltzers which launched in the Australian market just before the pandemic began in November 2019.

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.

The findings are from the Roy Morgan Single Source survey, Australia’s most trusted and comprehensive consumer survey, derived from in-depth interviews with over 60,000 Australians each year.

Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine said the increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic years of 2020-2022 has proven short-lived with lower consumption of wine, beer and spirits compared to a year ago – but consumption of RTDs (Ready-to-drink) has continued to increase:

Levine said: “The pandemic years of 2020-22 were tumultuous ones for all of us as the COVID-19 pandemic led to rolling lockdowns around the country and severe restrictions for over two-and-a-half years. 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 first 18 months of the pandemic in 2020-21.

“The short-term pandemic related trend peaked in the 12 months to June 2021 with overall consumption of alcohol reaching a high of 69.7% of Australian adults. Since then, consumption of alcohol has declined by 2.1% points (-199,000) to 67.6% of adults. However, this still represents an increase of 1.3% points (+636,000) compared to the pre-pandemic period three years 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 is still well above pre-pandemic levels. 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 standout performer of the last few years has been RTDs (Ready-to-drinks) which have kept increasing despite the ending of lockdowns and all pandemic-related restrictions. 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.

“The latest Roy Morgan data shows that over one-in-two Australians aged 18-34 (52.7%) and over one-in-three aged 35-49 (39.2%) consumed RTDs in the 12 months to March 2023. This is up massively from 30.0% for 18-34 year olds and 24.9% for 35-49 year olds pre-pandemic.

“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. 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.”




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