Are Australians getting sick of beer? Summer peak beer consumption is on the slide

As summer rolls around, Australians naturally drink more beer. But each yearly peak in consumption is on the decline. Photo: Arsineh Houspian Peaks and troughs: Ten years of Australians drinking beer, red wine and fortified wine. Photo: Roy Morgan.

As summer rolls around, Australians naturally drink more beer. But each yearly peak in consumption is on the decline. Photo: Arsineh Houspian

Summer is to beer as winter is to log fires. Or so the theory goes. Each year Australia’s peak in consumption is dropping by a greater amount, new data shows.

The percentage of Australians who said they chugged beer in the past month between January and March steadily declined from 46 per cent in 2006 to 41 per cent in 2014, according to research firm Roy Morgan.

Between January and March this year, for the first time, the figure dropped to below 40 per cent. This summer, it is expected to fall much further.

Andrew Price, general manager of consumer products at Roy Morgan, said it was not just beer rapidly losing fans.

Yearly consumption peaks for red wine dropped from 36 per cent of Australian adults to 31 per cent, and for fortified wine, from 10 per cent to six per cent, over the past decade.

“The peaks soften as the years roll on, a trend consistent with the broader overall decline in liquor consumption, whereby the total proportion of Australians aged 18 and over who drink any kind of alcohol in an average four weeks has fallen from 72 per cent to 68 per cent in the past decade,” Price said.

The data reinforces analysis by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in May that people are drinking less alcohol now than at any time in the past 50 years.

Beer once accounted for three-quarters of all alcohol consumed, the ABS findings showed. It now makes up 41 per cent.

Rohan Miller, a senior marketing lecturer at Sydney University, said beer companies, now largely consolidated, were struggling to appeal to young men shunning drinks enjoyed by their fathers and aspiring to be in white collar jobs.

“It’s definitely a concern for the beer industry. It’s a pressing business issue, a mature category that’s going into decline,” he said.

“They’re trying to introduce new flavours to the palate and, rather than merely advertising on television, going for social media. They’re trying to make it a cooler type of product.”

Michael Livingston, research fellow at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, said slowing alcohol consumption was almost entirely driven by young men and women.

He said the decline appeared across genders, socioeconomic groups, and in regional or urban areas. It was part of a global shift.

“One possibility is that the increase in the use of social media has altered the way young people interact, reducing the centrality of drinking in socialising,” he said.

“Exercising, eating well and avoiding alcohol and other drugs are important lifestyle choices for many young people, research has also shown.”

He said further research was crucial so that the decline in consumption could be sustained through appropriate interventions.

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