The data, from Roy Morgan’s Alcohol Consumption Report, showed that there were significant increases for wine and spirits (up 3.3 percentage points over the year) during the COVID-19 period. The number of Australians drinking wine increased from 8,065,000 (41 per cent of Australians aged 18+) to 8,814,000 (44.3 per cent). Although more women than men drink wine, the increase in the number of men drinking wine was larger than for women.
According to Roy Morgan CEO, Michele Levine, ‘the number of people drinking wine also increased across the age spectrum, and perhaps surprisingly the largest increase by age group was for those aged 80+, which is up 6.7 per cent on a year ago.’
In addition, spirit-drinkers increased to 6,277,000 (31.5 per cent) from 5,465,000 (27.8 per cent). The incidence of drinking spirits was up for both genders and across all legal age groups, with the largest increase by age for people 25–34 (up 7.7 per cent on a year ago).
During the pandemic period there was a nation-wide lockdown in March to May 2020, and a longer second lockdown in Victoria between July and October, plus smaller lockdowns, during which times pubs were shut and beer drinking declined from 7,353,000 (37.4 per cent) to 6,878,000 (34.6 per cent) over the year.
The ready-to-drink (RTD) market increased over the year, which Levine attributes to the rise in ‘health-conscious drinking’ as alcoholic seltzers, lower in calories and carbohydrates, hit the market. Cider drinking declined. A local example of a more health-conscious RTD is the new ‘lower sugar’ Brookies gin and tonic with native finger lime, which has 2.4gm of sugar per 100ml (a 275ml bottle of the RTD is bottled at 5.6 per cent ABV – 1.2 standard drinks). According to Brookies, this is 50 per cent less sugar than leading gin premix brands.
Levine concluded, ‘The big question for the alcohol market going forward is – can the trend in 2020 of an increasing number of Australians consuming alcohol (in particular wine, spirits and RTDs) continue, or will the longer-term trends of declining alcohol consumption resume in a post-COVID environment?’