The amount of alcohol consumed has increased from 9.52 litres per person in 2015 to 9.7 litres in 2016, according to an analysis of official data by IBISWorld.
The industry researcher predicts that this growth will continue slightly to reach 9.72 litres per person by 2018, despite lower consumption rates among younger drinkers aged 15-24.
Craft beer has provided the driving force for this recent rise, with consumers opting for premium products over mainstream brands.
“Beer consumption is expected to have risen from 3.76 litres per capita in 2014-15 to 3.86 litres in 2017-18. We attribute this growth to the rising popularity of craft beer,” said James Thomson, IBISWorld’s senior industry analyst.
Australian craft beer production is tipped to have grown at an annual rate of 9.7% over the five years to 2018. This means it has been outperforming the mainstream beer industry, which has been seeing 2.1% growth over the same period.
“Craft beer’s popularity has been driven by consumers seeking variety and quality. An increasing number of small-scale craft breweries are opening to take advantage of changing consumer tastes, contributing to the expanding range of beers available in liquor retailers,” said Thompson.
Consumption of low-strength beer remained unchanged in 2015-16, while mid- and full-strength beer consumption both grew.
Cider’s popularity has also increased strongly, with per capita consumption expected to grow at an annualised 13.3% over the five years to 2018. However, this segment still accounts for a small portion of overall alcohol consumption.
“Cider has grown in popularity due to its image as a refreshing alternative to beer, aided by savvy marketing and promotion. Conversely, per capita spirits and RTD consumption has declined over the past five years,” said Thomson.
Wine consumption is also expected to have declined marginally, spurred by the falling popularity of fortified wines, particularly among younger consumers. Wine consumption as a share of total per capita alcohol consumption has increased over the past decade, however, and is expected to represent 37.7% of total per capita consumption in 2017-18.
“Despite a decline in per capita wine consumption in Australia over the past five years, IBISWorld research highlights the growing popularity of Australian wines abroad. Strong export growth, particularly to Asia, is expected to drive the wine production industry’s performance over the next five years,” said Thomson.
Factors including rising health consciousness, increased alcohol taxation and anti-alcohol advocacy have contributed to a long-term decline in alcohol consumption over the past decade, and will continue will continue to trouble the industry in the future, he added.
Yet a rising consumer preference for quality over quantity has contributed to consumers spending more on alcohol. Many participants in the sector have enjoyed revenue growth.
“Consumers are increasingly seeking artisanal and high-quality beverages, while also looking for authentic experiences, such as visiting small breweries, distilleries and cellar doors. This trend has contributed to strong revenue growth for many small-scale alcohol producers, such as craft breweries and boutique wineries,” said Thomson.
“IBISWorld expects per capita alcohol consumption to continue its long-term trend and decline over the next five years. Increasing health consciousness and lower consumption rates among younger consumers are expected to contribute to this decline.”