Beer's too expensive, say big brewers

apparent consumption

Apparent consumption of alcohol 2009 – 2014. Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

The affordability of beer relative to wine is one of the major contributors to the beer category’s ongoing decline, Brewers Association of Australia and New Zealand CEO, Denita Wawn, has told Australian Brews News.

Wawn was commenting on the latest ABS data on apparent alcohol consumption, which yet again showed Australians are drinking less alcohol overall than any time in the previous 50 years, with beer the biggest loser.

Fifty years ago, beer made up three quarters of all alcohol consumed in Australia, but the category now makes up less than half (41 per cent).

Wine’s share has increased over the same period from 12 per cent to 38 per cent, which Wawn argues is largely due to its more sympathetic taxation regime.

“We do think that price is a factor in terms of the substitution between beer and cheap wine. We’ll utilise the tax reform process to highlight those concerns around price differential,” she said.

But Wawn acknowledged that the association and its members – Carlton & United Breweries, Lion and Coopers – also need to continue to work to change perceptions of the category.

“Individually as brewers and collectively we need to do more to improve the image of beer and educate people around the taste profiles and styles of beer,” she said.

The mid-strength category continues to grow, which Wawn said was reflective of consumers wanting moderate, lower alcohol products.

“The great thing about the mid-strength category is that it provides one standard serve in a packaged form but still provides quite a lot of flavour, so we’re meeting two key objectives that people are looking for in a beer,” she said.

“Beer does enable you to drink responsibly given its lower alcohol options, which other categories cannot provide.”

Craft beer still bucking the trend
The craft beer sector continues to achieve double digit growth year on year in spite of the overall beer category’s decline, CBIA executive officerChris McNamara told Australian Brews News.

“There is a significant number of new breweries and brewing companies coming onto the market on a weekly basis,” he said.

“We’ve got somewhere between 280 and 300 brewing companies in Australia at the moment, but still only five per cent by volume, and that’s because a number of those companies are focused on looking after their local areas, not necessarily becoming national brands.”

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