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More high-strength beer available in 2018 – Media release

26 February 2019

The volume of high-strength beer (above 5 percent alcohol) available for consumption has almost trebled in five years – rising 21 percent in 2018 alone, Stats NZ said today.

This rise was partly offset by a fall in lower-strength beers available to the domestic market in 2018. As a result, the overall amount of beer available in 2018 was only up 1.4 percent, recovering from a 1.2 percent fall the previous year, indicating a near-flat market over two years.

“The volume of high-strength beer rose for the fifth year in a row in 2018,” international statistics manager Tehseen Islam said. “This volume increase partly reflects the rising popularity of craft beers.”

The volume of high-strength beer reached 35 million litres in 2018, accounting for more than 10 percent of all beer available.

Beer with an alcohol content from 4.35 percent to 5 percent also rose, up 5.5 percent. In contrast, traditional mid-strength and low-strength beer volumes both fell in 2018, down 7.3 percent and 6.1 percent respectively from the previous year.

Of the total volume of beer available for consumption in New Zealand, 83 percent was made in New Zealand and 17 percent imported.

Spirits rise for fourth successive year

Spirits and spirt-based drinks (such as ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages) are among the fastest growing sectors in the alcoholic drinks market.

The total volume of spirits (including spirit-based drinks such as RTDs) rose 4.9 percent, following similar rises in each of the previous three years.

The volume of traditional spirits (such as whisky, gin, and vodka) rose 5.5 percent from 2017, and the volume of spirit-based drinks rose 4.8 percent.

Wine falls in 2018

The total volume of wine available to the domestic market fell 1.3 percent in 2018, following a rise of 1.5 percent in 2017.

The volume of wine made from grapes fell 2.6 percent in 2018. In contrast, wine made from other fruit and vegetables (mostly cider) rose 5.9 percent on 2017.

Standard drinks per person

The total volume of alcohol in alcoholic beverages available for consumption, expressed as the number of standard drinks available per person a day, was little changed in 2018 – down 0.6 percent to the second-lowest level in the last 18 years.

In 2018, there was enough alcohol for each adult New Zealander to drink the equivalent of 2.0 standard drinks a day, down from a recent peak of 2.2 in 2010.

“In 2010, the average adult would have had about 800 standard drinks available to consume. By 2018, that was down to about 730 a year,” Mr Islam said.

We compile alcohol statistics from figures on alcoholic beverages produced for local consumption, on which duty is paid, and imports less re-exports. The statistics provide information on the volume of alcoholic beverages released to the domestic market, and therefore what is available for consumption, rather than actual consumption. The statistics for alcohol available per head of population are based on the quarterly estimates of resident population.