Australians are drinking less, but opting for better quality booze.
Official data shows total consumption of alcohol fell for the sixth straight year in 2013, to a 17-year low.
Over the year, Australians aged 15 or over consumed an average of 9.88 litres of alcohol, or the equivalent of 2.2 standard drinks a day.
Beer drinkers consumed less in 2013 than they have in 67 years, while wine drinking hit a seven year low, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show.
The nation’s thirst for cider gained momentum, with cider consumption rising to about double what it was four years ago.
The ABS was unable to shed much light on the reasons for the decline in consumption of beer and wine, but CommSec chief economist Craig James said anecdotal evidence suggested Australians were embracing quality ahead of quantity.
“That is certainly the case with beer, where craft beers are gaining favour over mainstream brands,” Mr James said.
Affordability of alcohol has reached its best rate in 20 years, which, coupled with the fall in consumption, reflects a more selective consumer, he said.
“But it may also be a case where Aussies are paying greater attention to health issues,” Mr James said.
He noted that other data showed people were buying more sporting and recreational equipment over the past year.
Longer term influences such as random breath testing, immigration, better diets, higher disposable income and a greater variety of leisure pursuits were also contributing to the 17 year low, he said.
The data showed consumption of full strength beer continued to fall, but mid-strength beer had lifted slightly.
Beer still outweighs wine in terms of the amount of alcohol consumed.
Spirit drinkers stayed slow and steady, with consumption of spirits remaining stable over the decade.
“It remains to be seen whether alcohol consumption picks up over the coming year in line with stronger economic growth and record wealth levels,” Mr James said.