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A new report from analyst Datamonitor is excellent news for the industry.  It reveals that total spending on drinks by British consumers in bars, cafes, restaurants and hotels is set to increase by almost 10% in the next five years.

WOMEN ARE drinking 27% more alcohol now than five years ago, according to startling new evidence.  On the face of it, a new report from analyst Datamonitor is excellent news for the industry.

It reveals that total spending on drinks by British consumers in bars, cafes, restaurants and hotels is set to increase by almost 10% in the next five years, from £26.7 billion in 2003 to £29 billion in 2008.

Datamonitor say that average yearly spend in the on-trade per Briton will hit £625 by 2008.  Digging a little deeper reveals that this growth is being driven by a rise in mid-week revellers, and by women in particular.

Going out in the working week is becoming more popular at the expense of staying in to drink. The number of mid-week drinking occasions in Europe is forecast to rise by 15% over the next five years.

According to the report, consumers are looking to improve the balance between work and play, extend the weekend, and avoid crowds at peak time.  The clear news, and one that acknowledges an underlying trend, is that the rise in midweek drinking will also lead to a rise in the consumption of non-alcoholic drinks.

The value of soft drink sales as a percentage of the total ontrade in the UK is set to increase from just over 10% in 2003 to almost 13% in 2008.  This trend presents an opportunity, too, and the report cites J20 as an example of a successfully developed brand that has allowed consumers to fit into bar culture without alcohol.

The caveat to this buoyant data is increasing health concerns surrounding women’s drinking habits.  Increased consumption by almost 27% between 1998 and 2003 shows no sign of slowing down, claims the report’s author, Danielle Rebelo, consumer markets analyst.

Young British women aged between 18 and 24 are by far the largest drinkers of alcoholic drinks in Europe, with annual per capita consumption of 203 litres in 2003 compared to just 63 litres among young Italian women, for example.

The feminisation of alcohol has had the single biggest impact on the on-trade in the past 15 years and has also affected male drinking habits, comments Rebelo.  The continued rise in female drinking has seen the introduction of feminine beverages and the feminisation of traditional male drinks, notes Rebelo (see our feature on spirits on page 24).

This month on our website we will be asking you to vote on whether the drinks industry is doing enough to promote responsible drinking for women.  The results will be published in December.

 Insider opinions

"We do believe that the drinks industry should promote responsible drinking for women and men.  At a brand level we are adding alcohol units to our Kumala labels and all of our wines have food match recommendations on the label to encourage people to enjoy wine with food.

 As an organisation, we are heavily involved in the Wine Trade Action Group which promotes responsible marketing."  Mike Paul, Managing Director of Western Wines

"There is a worry that younger women are increasingly adopting the drinking styles of men and are more likely to binge drink.  Portman Group members are committed to addressing these problems and on top of this, our recent campaign showing women the effect of excessive drinking on their looks was a great success.

We will be targeting young women again in the run-up to Christmas.  These industry initiatives need to be more widespread, and backed up by more effective communication from government." 

Jean Coussins, Chief Executive of The Portman Group

"The company has always aimed at encouraging good behaviour and creating a pleasant atmosphere, through a number of initiatives. We believe that a combination of food served all day, reasonably priced soft drinks, an absence of financial incentives to ‘trade up’ to larger quantities of alcohol, combined with good facilities and a heavy emphasis on staff training are the right direction for the pub industry to take.

No company that serves alcohol can be immune from bad behaviour from time to time, but these policies should help to reduce its effects, and, as a company, we will continue to consider sensible prices for our business and the community in this complex area."

John Hutson, Chief Executive of JD Wetherspoon

"We have not seen the same kind of pressures as other companies because we are more restaurant-based so people are not coming in specifically to drink.  However, our point of sales promotions in restaurants do include a responsible drinking message."

Katy Lingard, Category Buyer at Whitbread

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