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Volume of spirit-based drinks available up five years in a row – Media release

26 February 2020

The volume of spirit-based drinks available for consumption rose again in 2019, Stats NZ said today.

“Spirit-based drinks available have risen nearly 30 percent in volume since 2014,” international statistics manager Darren Allan said.

“The volume was up 5.8 percent in 2019, following similar rises in each of the previous four years.”

Spirit-based drinks, such as ready-to-drink or RTD beverages, are one of the fastest-growing sectors in the domestic alcohol market today.

The volume of traditional spirits (such as whisky, gin, and vodka) rose 4.8 percent from 2018. The total volume of spirits (including spirit-based drinks) available for consumption rose 5.6 percent.

The total volume of alcoholic drinks rose 1.7 percent in 2019, following a 1.3 percent rise in 2018. Beer was up in the year, with wine down slightly.

More high-strength beer available in 2019

The volume of high-strength beer (above 5 percent alcohol) available for consumption rose 11 percent in 2019. The rate of growth has slowed, after rises of 21 percent in 2018, and 34 percent in 2017.

“Despite the rate of growth slowing, the volume of high-strength beer available is still rising, now for the sixth year in a row,” Mr Allan said.

“This year’s volume is nearly three times that for 2014, and partly reflects the rising popularity of craft beers.”

The volume of high-strength beer in 2019 now accounts for more than 13 percent of all beer available to the domestic market.

There were contrasting movements in other beer categories.

Beer with an alcohol content from 4.35 percent to 5 percent fell 1.7 percent, after rises in each of the last three years. The volume of traditional mid-strength beer rose 3.4 percent, while the volume of low-strength beer fell, down 6.9 percent from the previous year.

As a result, the overall volume of beer available in 2019 rose 1.6 percent, following a rise of 1.4 percent in 2018, and a fall of 1.2 percent in 2017.

Little change in wine volume

The total volume of wine available to the domestic market was little changed, down 0.7 percent in 2019, following a fall of 1.4 percent in 2018, and a rise of 1.5 percent in 2017.

The volume of wine made from grapes fell 2.7 percent in 2019. In contrast, wine made from other fruit and vegetables (mostly cider) rose 9.6 percent on 2018.

Standard drinks per person

The total volume of alcohol in alcoholic beverages available for consumption, expressed as the number of standard drinks available a day per person (aged 18 years and over), was little changed in 2019 – down 0.2 percent.

In 2019, there was enough alcohol available for each adult New Zealand resident (18 years and over) to drink the equivalent of 2.0 standard drinks a day, down from the latest peak of 2.2 in 2010.

“In 2010, an adult would have had, on average, about 800 standard drinks available to consume in a year. By 2019, that was down to about 740 a year,” Mr Allan said.

Stats NZ compiles alcohol statistics from figures on alcoholic beverages produced for local consumption, on which duty is paid, and from figures on 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 person are based on quarterly estimates of the resident population.