BOTTOMS UP

Beer consumption in Australia is falling at a remarkable pace

Foster’s may still bill itself as being Australian for beer, but these days that’s not saying much.

While beer accounted for about three quarters of the alcohol Australians drank in the 1960s, it now makes up only about 40% of total consumption, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. (The agency measures consumption based on the volume of alcohol available and does not factor in waste and storage.)

Australia’s interest in beer has been steadily declining since at least the 1960s, reflecting, in part, a shift to more expensive, higher alcohol content beverages such as wine and spirits. The growing popularity of cider over the last decade is also eating away at beer’s share of the market.

But, overall, Australians just appear to be drinking less. As the Australian Financial Review noted this year, stricter drunk-driving laws and financial uncertainty have pushed some Australians to reduce their drinking. Meanwhile, others are becoming more health-conscious and limiting the amount of alcohol in their diets.

The trend is a worrying one for Australian brewers. Though the largest Australian-owned beer maker, Coopers Brewery, just delivered a year of stronger financials, managing director Tim Cooper was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald saying he’s concerned by statistics showing Australia’s total beer volume has shrunk by more than 10% in the past six years. “At the moment we see it only continuing to decline,” he said.

Australians are not the only ones downing fewer pints. Nine of the 25 largest beer drinking nations saw a dip in the volume of beer consumed from 2011 to 2012, a study by the Kirin Brewery Company found. Consumption in the UK fell 3.7%, the largest drop in the report. In contrast, beer consumption increased in parts of Asia including Thailand, Vietnam, and India, as well as in the US—the world’s second-largest beer-consuming nation. (By volume, only China is larger—while Australia, the eighth-largest beer market by volume in 2011, had dropped to 12th place by 2012.)

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