Beer hops off buyers' lists

By Joanne Carroll

Photo / Janna Dixon
Photo / Janna Dixon

Kiwis appear to be calling time on their love affair with beer, partly because of spiralling living costs, a wine glut and healthier lifestyles.

Although the amber nectar remains the nation's top tipple, figures from Statistics New Zealand reveal a 7 per cent slump in the amount available in the past two years.

During the same period the amount of wine available rose almost 10 per cent and spirits 14 per cent. The figure for wine includes fortified products and ciders.

Jo Jalfon, spokeswoman for DB Breweries, which brews Heineken, Monteith's and Tui, said beer consumption had been in decline for a decade.

"People are definitely drinking less beer, partly due to the increasing availability of other products."

Jalfon said there had been an increase in the sales of craft beers, including healthier low-carb products, and cider sales had "taken off" in the past year.

"People are more conscious about what they are drinking."

She said more people were entertaining at home and drinking wine with dinner rather than going to bars, where they were more likely to drink beer.

Neil Hinton, corporate affairs director for Lion Nathan, which produces Speight's, Steinlager and Mac's, said another factor was an oversupply of wine in New Zealand.

"The global financial crisis and the high New Zealand dollar have led to wine markets shutting down or reducing. Recent larger grape harvests have also meant more wine is available," said Hinton.

New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan said the amount of grapes harvested in 2008 soared 39 per cent to 285,000 tonnes, causing a glut and eroding prices.

This year's harvest could reach 310,000 tonnes - 13 per cent more than targeted - but prices are likely to pick up because the export market has improved.

Although some consumers are lured by cheaper wine, others are turned off beer by rising prices.

An in-depth Herald on Survey survey found the average price of a 12-pack has risen almost 28 per cent since the start of last year.

Liquorland merchandise manager Andrew Bartley said there were lower sales "across the board" despite the over-supply of wine.

"The value of purchases is also decreasing. People are drinking less. There is more stock available but people are not buying it."

He said that was a lifestyle choice. "People are consuming less alcohol and going to the pub less. People are trending away from mainstream beer to premium or craft beers."

Brewers Guild figures for last year show craft beer sales rose 11 per cent.

Guild chairman David Cryer said beer drinkers were consuming less but moving towards better-quality, higher-priced brews.

"The continuing global financial crisis means people cannot afford to go out to bars and restaurants so they are drinking at home and tend to treat themselves to a higher-priced premium beer."

The total volume of alcoholic drinks available fell almost 2.5 per cent over the past two years.

Beer accounted for 63 per cent of available alcohol last year.

- Herald on Sunday

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