Australians World Leaders in Lower Strength Beer Consumption: Study

Brewers Association of Australia

New academic research has found Australians are leading the world when it comes to the consumption of lower strength beers with only Sweden, which has significantly lower tax rates for mid strength beer, matching the size of the category in Australia. The research paper by Professor Kym Anderson of the School of Economics and Public Policy, University of Adelaide found that over 30 per cent of beer sales in Australia are now mid, low or zero strength, up from 23 per cent in the 1990s.

The study finds that the shift to no-, low- and mid-strength beers has been great news for responsible alcohol consumption in Australia with drinkers reducing their consumption of pure alcohol through beer by around 3 million litres over the past decade by shifting to mid-, low- and zero-strength beers. Other key trends noted in the report include the following:

•As beer volumes have dropped significantly since their peak in the 1970s,consumers are drinking more responsibly as they shift to ‘premium beers,allowing the beer market to continue to thrive. •The share of beer consumption that is considered premium in Australia rose from 28 per cent in 2011 to 43 per cent in 2018. •The share of alcohol consumed as beer in Australia, at two-fifths (down from two-thirds in the 1970s), is now the same as in the rest of the world demonstrating that Australians are consuming beer more selectively and responsibly. •Zero-alcohol beer is growing rapidly in Australia but still represents only 1per cent of sales, but that share is expected to double in the next few years. •Australia’s overall alcohol consumption has declined by 11 per cent over the past decade compared to the average decline amongst OECD countries of 4 per cent. •Australia now sits around midway amongst OECD countries in terms of alcohol consumption per adult. •Further evidence of the vibrancy of Australia’s beer industry is that the number of breweries in the country doubled between 2015 and 2019 from360 to 740.

John Preston, CEO of the Brewers Association of Australia, said:

“This report highlights both the strength of the brewing sector in Australia and its contribution to the unparalleled progress that has been made in Australia on responsible alcohol consumption.

“Over the past years we have seen beer drinkers reduce their pure alcohol consumption by 3 million litres as lower-alcohol beer products have become more popular. It’s clear that our brewing industry’s innovation in this area has made a significant difference to consumption levels.

“Over 30 per cent of beer sales in Australia are now mid-, low- or zero-strength. As we saw recently, two out of the top three most popular beers in Australia are mid-strength brands – Great Northern Super Crisp and XXXX Gold – and we note that Coopers launched Coopers Dry 3.5 in November 2022.

Importantly, the Report also concludes that through additional preferential excise treatment of mid-strength beer, Australia could see further reductions in alcohol consumption. That would further strengthen Australia’s leadership in responsible beer consumption. Professor Anderson states that:

“Lower-alcohol beers are becoming more similar in flavour and style to full-strength beers. Should the current difference in the excise duties on mid- and full-strength beers be widened, that would open a further opportunity for this category”.

More specifically, the Report states:

“A decrease in tax on and thus the price of mid- relative to full-strength beers would encourage more substitution away from full-strength beer, and possibly also from wines and spirits. In so doing, Australia’s overall alcohol and calorie consumption would decline”.

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