Peak beer in Australia

Per capita consumption of alcohol in beer peaked in 1974-75 and has been falling steadily since (Chart 1).

Chart 1

As a result of this per capita decline, total consumption peaked in 1981-82 despite a growing population (Chart 2).  It is clear that total consumption falls in difficult economic times and does not recover afterwards.  Australia had economic recessions in the early 1980s and the early 1990s.  The most recent fall was after the global economic crisis of 2008-09.

Chart 2

Demographic change has been responsible for peak beer.  Successive household expenditure surveys conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that spending on beer by adults declines with age (Chart 3).  The large baby boomer generation started turning 18 in 1964 and per capita consumption rose steeply.  Ten years later, at the peak of per capita consumption this generation started turning 28 and by 2011 they started turning 65.  Beer manufacturers have not been able to convince older people to keep drinking the same amount as when they were younger.  They probably never tried to develop product and communications to do so.  Perhaps it would have been a lost cause anyway. 

Chart 3

Other categories of spending may be following a similar pattern.  Other categories in which spending declines with age are soft drinks and takeaway food.  There are, however, some categories in which spending actually increases with age, such as breakfast cereal, and some of these will be growth markets.

Charlie Nelson
September 2014