Saturday 28 May 2016

Consumption of beer, spirits and cider plummet - but Irish people still in love with wine

Paul Melia and Dr Mick Kerrigan

Published 16/03/2016 | 02:30

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Alcohol consumption has fallen dramatically since the height of the boom, with sales of beer, cider, spirits and sparkling wine plummeting by 120 million litres a year - a drop of 16pc.

But although overall consumption has fallen since 2006 and 2007 as thousands emigrated and the country endured a prolonged recession, we are still drinking worrying amounts of alcohol.

Research from DCU, funded by the drinks industry, shows that the 'average' adult drinker consumed just over 11 litres of pure alcohol in 2015, a drop of 0.7pc year on year. This consumption is above the OECD average.

But an analysis of data from the Revenue Commissioners carried out by the Irish Independent shows that overall consumption of most alcoholic drinks is falling.

The only beverage experiencing a boost in sales since the economic collapse is wine.

In 2014, 83.9 million litres of wine was purchased - an increase of more than three million on the amount sold at the peak of the Celtic Tiger era. This is largely because people are drinking at home instead of in pubs.

Alcohol Action Ireland said, while we are consuming less, it was falling from a very high level.

In 2001, alcohol consumption reached a peak of 14.3 litres per capita, and there had been a "constant narrative" that consumption had dropped since.

But it warned: "As the economy is recovering, alcohol is becoming more affordable.

"We still have one of the highest levels of alcohol consumption in the world, and one of the highest levels of 'binge drinking'. The global average is 6.2 litres - we are at 11 litres."

At the peak of the boom in 2007, we consumed more than 720 million litres of beer, wine, cider, sparkling wine and spirits every year.

This represents a three-fold increase on 1960 levels, when 226 million litres was consumed.

The figures, which are based on excise paid to the Revenue Commissioners, show that the State now collects the most excise duty from beer - followed by wine, spirits and cider. The latest figures also reveal:

• 100 million fewer litres of beer a year are sold today than at the peak, down 18pc.

• There has also been an increase in the number of microbreweries - 75 were licensed in 2014, compared with 45 in 2013 and just 25 in 2012.

• Warm weather affects the consumption of cider - October 1974 to August 1976 was among the driest periods on record, and it saw a boost in sales from 3.3 million litres in 1974 to 5.1 million litres by 1976.

• Consumption of spirits reached a high of 9.7 million litres in 2002, but it steadily fell to 7.2 million litres by 2013.

• Sales of sparkling wine reached one million litres for the first time in 1999, for the millennium celebrations. They soared during the Celtic Tiger years, rising from 1.6 million litres in 2005 to a peak of 2.3 million litres in 2007. They are now just over 1.5 million litres.

Wine expert and Irish Independent columnist, Liam Campbell, said once the recession hit, drinking champagne appeared rude - and that many switched to other sparkling wines, including prosecco.

Recession

"In the recession, there's a notable drop - not only because it may have been unaffordable, but also because it could be seen as impolite and rude, because we were in a recession.

"Champagne sales slumped, but to fill that 'fizz vacuum' was prosecco - a poor man's fizz."

As much as 60pc of all alcohol sold today is through the off-trade, and 7pc of our disposable income is spent on alcohol, which equates to around €6.5bn a year.

The Department of Health said drinking levels remained "very high" and were a "major public health concern".

Irish Independent

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