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UK drinking less volume, but more alcohol

It’s often said that the UK is consuming less when it comes to the volume of drinks, but the country may be imbibing more alcohol.

As the UK drinker moves from wine and beer to gin, they are drinking less by volume, but consuming more pure alcohol

Those in the UK trade will know well the phrase, “less but better” when it comes to the world of alcoholic drinks, which is regularly used to sum up an overall trend of reducing alcohol consumption, but a move to more upmarket products.

Such a shift may be within categories, such as from lager to craft beers, blush rosé to dry Provençal pink, light Chianti to juicy Malbec, or cheap vodka to artisanal gin, and in all cases, there is move up in terms of price as well as alcohol by volume (ABV).

But more recent trends have also shown a switch across categories, with British drinkers moving from lighter drinks such as beer and wine to spirits, above all gin.

And it is this latter development that may mean that overall the UK is now drinking more pure alcohol than it was a decade ago.

As a result, having considered the major trends in the UK market at a Vinexpo briefing earlier this year, Mark Meek, who is CEO of the IWSR, said that he believed the country was consuming more ABV.

“Everyone says that the UK is drinking ‘less but better’, and that’s true if you look at the volume, but if you consider the ABV, then the UK is drinking more in terms of pure alcohol,” he said.

In support of such a statement, he added, “People are switching from 5% beer to 30-40% spirits.”

In terms of numbers revealed by Meek at the Vinexpo press briefing, he produced a bar chart (see below) to show that gin, whisky and tequila have grown by 1.688 million cases (2016-2017), while the still wine market has declined by 3.037m cases, in part offset by a rise in sparkling volumes over the same period of 0.582m cases.

Even though this ensures the overall volume of consumption across drinks has declined, the growth in spirits could mean that the UK is drinking 4-5% more pure alcohol, according to Meek.

Looking ahead, he forecast that the market for spirits will continue to grow in the UK, led by more premium expressions, above all in the gin category.

In contrast, he said that the UK still wine market is forecast to gradually decline towards 2022, although sparking will continue to grow, albeit at a slower rate, and driven by Prosecco, which, he noted, will expand at the expense of Champagne and Cava.

Source: IWSR Drinks Market Analysis

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