By Deborah Jackson, Editor, National Liquor News

Speaking to National Liquor News for its 2018 Leaders Forum issue, Roy Morgan has revealed which categories and trends Australia’s legal age drinkers adopted in 2017.

The percentage of Australian drinkers (18+) has failed to build on last year’s rise, with a gentle decline over the past 12 months led by the leading categories of wine and beer drinkers. But Roy Morgan research shows that Australians are increasingly turning to cider, liqueur and white spirits to sate their thirst.

The research company told National Liquor News: “A year ago we celebrated a surprising upturn in alcohol consumption by Australian adults, however the results for 2017 show that last year was something of a standout in recent years. Twelve months down the track, Roy Morgan can reveal that in the year to September 2017 the proportion of Australian drinkers has moderated, with 67.6 per cent of Australians 18+ (or 12.75 million people) drinking at least one alcoholic beverage in an average four weeks, compared with 69.5 per cent (12.9 million) in 2016.

“A decrease in Australians drinking wine and beer was responsible for the overall fall, however Australians are increasingly turning to cider, liqueurs, RTDs and a range of spirits including whisky, gin and vodka for their alcohol consumption. Over the past year consumption of spirits increased by 109,000 drinkers per four week period to five million Australian adults (26.4 per cent) with white spirits leading the way with 224,000 more drinkers per four week period.

“Wine is again the clear leader as Australia’s favourite alcoholic beverage beating all comers with 44.4 per cent (cf. 45.0 per cent in 2016) of Australians drinking wine in an average four weeks; however this is down 80,000 drinkers on a year ago.

“The move from beer to cider which we’ve seen over the last few years (with the notable exception of a spike in beer drinkers in 2016) has continued with a decline of 68,000 Australians drinking beer in an average four weeks meaning 37.5 per cent of Australians now drink beer compared to 38.5 per cent a year ago.

“The contrast with cider is apparent when one considers just fewer than 2.4 million Australians (12.7 per cent) now drink cider in an average four weeks, up 44,000 Australians on a year ago, and up an impressive 545,000 Australians compared to four years ago in 2013.

“White spirits experienced strong growth in penetration in 2017 on the back of strong rises for both vodka and gin with 13.2 per cent of Australians now drinking a white spirit in an average four weeks, up one percentage point and equal to 224,000 extra drinkers from 2016. However, this strong performance wasn’t matched by dark spirits, which although still preferred overall slipped slightly with 18.3 per cent of Australians drinking something from the category in an average four weeks compared with a high of 18.9 per cent penetration a year ago (a loss of 50,000 drinkers year-over-year).

“Meanwhile, the liqueurs category (including cocktails) has continued its strong growth from a year ago with an additional 135,000 Australians now partaking in a liqueur (or cocktail) in an average four weeks an increase of 328,000 drinkers over the past two years and with market penetration now equal to 9.1 per cent of the adult population up from 8.5 per cent a year ago.”

Roy Morgan also told National Liquor News that there will be increased competition for liquor retailers in 2018.

“Australia’s retail market is facing increasing competition on many fronts with the recent entry of American giant Amazon, and Australia’s liquor market is no exception with the entry, and success, of German discount supermarket giant Aldi over the past 15 years now attracting German rival Kaufland, which has already begun buying up lucrative retail sites in preparation for a launch in the near future, and continuing speculation about fellow German discount retail giant Lidl.

“In the year to September 2017, over five million Australians bought alcohol in an average seven day period, spending over $324 million between them, or an average of over $64 per person per week. Despite the number of Australians buying alcohol being virtually unchanged from a year ago, spending year-on-year overall is up around $15 million and about $4 per person.

“Dan Murphy’s has again strengthened its advantage over all-comers in the industry with share of wallet rising to 30.4 per cent (up 1.5 percentage points from a year ago) and average spend increasing substantially for the market leader to $77 (up from $69 a year ago).

“Wesfarmers leading liquor outlet Liquorland solidified its hold on third position in the market increasing share of wallet to 10.6 per cent (up an impressive 2.6 percentage points) and marginally increasing average spend to $41 (up from $40).

“Assessing the performance of Australia’s 10 major alcohol retailers over the last year shows half of the retailers increasing their share of ‘Liquor Outlet’ spend and half experiencing a decrease. Among those who saw declines in retail spend were First Choice for the second straight year to 4.6 per cent (down 0.6 percentage points), IGA Liquor (2.9 per cent, down 0.1 percentage points) and notably Woolworths Liquor (1.9 per cent, down one percentage point).

“It is worth noting that the strong performance of market leader Dan Murphy’s over the past year has been reflected in the monthly Roy Morgan Customer Satisfaction Awards with Dan Murphy’s triumphant in consecutive months late in 2017, although other brands including First Choice Liquor, Aldi Liquor and IGA Liquor have also performed strongly throughout 2017 with each of these brands managing multiple victories in the award.”

For more from Roy Morgan’s research of the 2017 liquor market including the performance of the spirits category and who Australia’s brewers should be targeting, take a look at the 2018 Leaders Forum issue of National Liquor News.

Deborah Jackson

Deb joined Intermedia in 2015 as Editor of National Liquor News and Deputy Editor of The Shout. Since then, she has also worked as the Editor of Beer & Brewer and the New Zealand title, World of Wine....

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