Philip Otley on Dec 12, 2019

So, is your Christmas going to be dry this year?

Recent research by a UK brewery showed that 30% of customers sitting in their pubs and bars were not drinking the usual…they were drinking low or no alcohol products. They reported that this trend has increased most with millennials, who as a generation are showing themselves to be more alcohol conscious.[1]

We’re seeing Sober Bars and Low Alcohol Pubs, a rise in personal alcohol consumption tracking technology and an increase in the share of lower or non-alcohol beverages globally. We’re even seeing the launch of sparkling water with wine antioxidants – yet no alcohol!

Will these trends be echoed in Australia? Volume growth in alcohol consumption has been low or flat for a number of years. Yet the value of alcohol consumed has increased in low single digits year on year…a clear move to more ‘premium’ consumption.

Looking to other markets often gives early indicators of what to expect in Australia. For now, we believe that Australia will follow the US market in rapidly growing a lower alcohol, lower calorie segment, despite stagnation in the other parts of the market.

Product innovation continues to drive the US market. “Hard Seltzers”, which we’d call spritzers or sparkling water based alcoholic beverages, have taken off sharply, initially by tapping into middle-aged, middle socio-economic segments who were seeking an alternative to high-calorie, high-alcohol beer and white/rosé wines. This has created a half-billion US dollar market from scratch in less than 5 years.

Research suggests that Australian consumers want more than ‘low calories’ though – we’re interested in ‘clean food’, and support a more mindful consumer movement than other international cohorts…so direct translation of US trends to Australia would be misleading.

Australian drinking occasions are changing too – ‘relaxing by myself’ now being our top alcohol occasion by volume. Though this doesn’t only mean getting quietly sozzled, alone, with a cask of Australia’s finest.

Other powerful trends are also coming into play in Australia, among them:

  • Value seeking will be the new norm – Australia lags in 21st place of 30 developed countries in real wage growth terms and consumer sentiment is not strongly supporting spending increases. So we’d better get the price point right as a starter
  • Health & Wellbeing is not about just diet – it is about being “wholly well”, which covers a healthy diet and lifestyle, contributing to reduction of stress, increased mindfulness and overall physical and mental health
  • Premiumisation – in an increasingly experience driven economy, people are seeking novel and unique experiences, which is driving the premiumisation of categories as consumers shift towards an attitude of ‘less but better’. This trend is also creating traction for niche and localised flavours (e.g. spirits made with locally foraged botanicals)


Who will take advantage of these trends to establish their share of the Australian alcoholic consumption market? Whoever it is, they’ll have to get a few things right:

  • Tapping the Health & Wellbeing trend with an emphasis on ‘pure’ in marketing messages and lower calories and carbs (vs. beer & wine)

  • Being in the right time and the right place – designing around regulatory and distribution curiosities in Australia to ensure that price and distribution targets can be achieved

  • Being Unisex, and managing to convert males to a non-traditional alcoholic beverage

  • Breaking Conventions to develop strong word of mouth growth. “There ain’t no laws when drinking Claws” is a well-known youth catch cry of White Claw selzer consumption in the US. Priceless.

What will Australian drinkers’ catch cry be this Christmas? You can be pretty sure if won’t be “Make mine a Claytons”

Is now the right time for you to find advantage from our rapidly changing world? If so, let’s talk.

[1] Mintel British Lifestyles Report 2019

Growth Mantra
Right Menu Icon