August 16, 2022

Australian alcohol consumption declines from pandemic highs of 2021, but consumption of RTDs at a record high

Topic: Press Release
Finding No: 9054
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New data from Roy Morgan’s Alcohol Consumption Report shows 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 as people were stuck at home has now receded. However, consumption of RTDs (Ready-to-drink) has continued to increase and is now at a record high.

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 standout alcoholic beverage over the last year as we emerged from the pandemic lockdowns of 2020-21 has been Ready-to-drinks (RTDs) which increased from 2,669,000 Australians (13.5%) up to 3,349,000 Australians (16.7%) – an increase of 3.2% points (+680,000).

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 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.

Proportion of Australians aged 18+ who consume alcohol in an average four-week period

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source Australia, July 2020 – June 2021, n=63,256. July 2021 – June 2020, n=63,104. Base: Australians aged 18+.

Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine says the increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic years of 2020-2021 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:

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“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 9 months in Melbourne.
“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.
“The standout performer of the last few years has been RTDs (Ready-to-drinks) 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 RTDs market 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.
“Although 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.
“Roy Morgan will be keeping a close eye on the post-pandemic trends we are already seeing in the alcohol market during 2022. The emerging trends suggest consumption of wine and spirits looks set to return to pre-pandemic levels while RTDs, and ‘hard seltzers in particular’ rise in significance and beer consumption continues its long-term decline.”

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Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size Percentage Estimate
40% – 60% 25% or 75% 10% or 90% 5% or 95%
1,000 ±3.0 ±2.7 ±1.9 ±1.3
5,000 ±1.4 ±1.2 ±0.8 ±0.6
7,500 ±1.1 ±1.0 ±0.7 ±0.5
10,000 ±1.0 ±0.9 ±0.6 ±0.4
20,000 ±0.7 ±0.6 ±0.4 ±0.3
50,000 ±0.4 ±0.4 ±0.3 ±0.2

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