Page last updated: Wednesday, November 12, 2008
World-wide Consumption Trends
by Helena Conibear, Editor of AIM
It is true that the US and the UK in particular are enjoying a boom in wine sales and an increase in sales value per bottle sold (in the UK alone there has been a value growth of 45% for still wines between 1994-98 and the wine market grew from £4.3 billion in 1998 to 4.6 billion in 1999) . Yet the global picture is far from optimistic, especially if total alcohol consumption is analysed within the West.

World-wide consumption trends:

Consumption in France is still falling, from 11.4 litres to 10.8 litres (pure alcohol per capita) in 1998. Young people are rejecting wine (a drop from 73 litres to 58 litres per capita between 1990 and 1998) in favour of beer in particular and the Loi Evin which restricts advertising and forbids the sponsorship of events by alcoholic beverages cannot help.

In Germany too, consumption fell from 11.1 to 10.6 litres, led by beer, although wine consumption is remaining stable at 23 litres per head.

Spain, happily has stabilised at last, with a small rise from 9.5 litres in 1995 to 10.1 litres in 1998, and wine consumption has risen sharply from 30 to 35 litres between 1996 and 1998.Beer and spirits consumption has remained static.

UK consumption has risen slightly from 7.3 litres to 7.5 litres and both the USA and Australia have remained stable at 7.5 and 6.5 litres respectively. The short term looks more encouraging at last, but if we look a trends between 1980 and 1998, it is depressing indeed.

Alcohol Consumption per capita % change between 1980 and 1998

Spain - 26% UK +2.5%

Canada - 26% Japan +20%

USA - 21%

It is interesting to look at a few markets in detail:


Between 1980 and 1998, there has been a 12.3% drop in wine consumption, beer consumption fell from 92 litres per head to 82 litres and spirits from 3 litres to 1.86. The highest level of wine consumption peaked in 1986/87 with 9.2 litres per capita, which has fallen steadily since. The last four years at last has seen an evening out of this trend, and wine consumption is nosing gently upwards again after a decade of decline. Interestingly wine production in the US has remained remarkably consistent since 1980 at 18,000,000 hl, with growth of just 4% by 1997 to 18,700,000 hl. The Wine Institute calculates wine consumption to be 1.95 gallons per head in 1998 against a high of 2.43 gallons in 1985/6.

Wine consumption (litres) per capita USA (source World Drink Trends and Wine Institute)

1986 1995 1996 1997 1998

9.2 6.76 7.19 7.38 7.42

Total alcohol consumption in litres of pure alcohol per capita has remained between 6.7 litres and 6.5 litres between 1993 and 1998.

The UK

The UK is demonstrating some interesting trends, for although overall alcohol consumption changed little between 1980 and 1998 ( up 2.5%), the trend towards drinking wine, and better quality wine, at the expense of spirits and volume of beer continues. It must be remembered that the growth is from a small base, as the UK average consumption is 14.4 litres of wine per annum against 43 litres in Italy, 58 litres in France and 35 litres in Spain (1998 figures). Interestingly the UK value spend on wine is equal to that of Italy however.

A recent report by datamonitor demonstrates that UK young women are drinking more: 9.4 units in 1999 , expecting to rise to 11.8 units by 2004 (well within the government guidelines of 14-21 8g units per week) and are more relaxed about drinking without men in public than ever before. Drink choice is also changing in favour of wine, bottled beers and spirit mixers such as Bacardi Breezer.


Although Japan is a high profile, high value market, its wine consumption figures are startlingly low at just 1.84 litres per head in 1998, this has grown from the tiny base of 0.9 litres in 1991 however, and suggests scope for growth. Overall consumption, including that of beer and spirits, has remained remarkably stable at 6.5 litres of pure alcohol per head since 1990.

Future trends;

In 1999 beer sales in Western Europe are forecast to fall by 1% to 296 million hectolitres: by the year 2010 the majority of Northern European markets are expected to have declined by 14-18% (Germany by 20%). Conversely Mediterranean countries are experiencing a drift in the opposite direction away from wine to beer (Greek and Italian beer consumption increased by 6% between 1997 and 98. Eastern Europe promises to be an area of growth. Retail Intelligence estimates that Russian beer sales will increase by 140% and Romanian, Bulgarian and Polish sales by 50-60%.Annual growth for beer is estimated to be 2.5-3% with new markets maturing in China and Africa for example.

Sources: World Drink Trends 1999, Datamonitor, Retail Intelligence plus various press articles and reviews.

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