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Britain's drinkers don't know own strength

UK consumers may be drinking less overall, but with more units of alcohol per drink it seems Brits are consuming more alcohol than ever before according to new research from Mintel

Mintel research shows that the proportion of alcohol drinkers in the UK is decreasing, yet in terms of pure alcohol they are drinking more than ever. The amount of pure 100% alcohol consumed by British drinkers has increased by 10% since 2000, despite the actual volume of alcohol consumed (in litres) remaining static throughout this period.

Jonny Forsyth, senior drinks analyst at Mintel says: "In the 1970s a bottle of wine may have been around 11% in abv and now the same bottle is more likely to be around 13%. Equally, we have seen stronger lager become much more popular over the past couple of decades, with the growth of the 5% "premium" lager sector.

"It may be that the majority of consumers are not aware of abv and don't even notice. So despite a greater societal concern with being healthy leading to a decline in drinking penetration, by stealth we are drinking more pure alcohol than ever.

"Britain's deeply engrained drinking culture will be slow to change but the key challenge for the government is to help drinkers consume fewer units for each drink they have.

"The success of recent reduced alcohol beer and lager lines is also significant for drinks manufacturers, suggesting that there is a growing consumer appeal for drinking more sensibly across all types of drinks," concludes Forsyth.

The research also shows that, counter to public belief, the appeal of binge drinking amongst younger people is on the decrease.

In the past five years, the number drinking at least 2 or 3 three times a week has decreased by 13% amongst 18-24 year old men and 26% amongst 18-24 year old women. In addition, there is evidence that binge drinking is becoming less socially acceptable amongst this group.

The research shows 18-24 year olds are 22% less likely to agree with the statement "The point of drinking is to get drunk" compared to a 13% drop amongst the whole adult population over the past five years.

The research also shows that younger people do drink more units in an average session, however, when it comes to volume of weekly drinking the reverse is true, with volume sales of alcohol among 18-24s paling in comparison to 45-64 year olds.

Mintel's Forsyth adds: "There is a dual problem when it comes to excessive alcohol consumption. Younger drinkers are binge drinking too much on the one hand, and older drinkers, while drinking less per session are often drinking over the weekly recommended drinking allowance, by drinking little and often."

Meanwhile it seems attitudes towards alcohol in general remain positive, despite negative connotations to binge drinking. Nearly 60% of consumers claim to be more aware of campaigns encouraging them to drink responsibly, and 49% say they were are more aware of binge drinking then they used to be.

However, the research also shows 22% of adults drink more at home than a year ago because it helps them to relax. Furthermore, a massive 42% of consumers claim binge drinking is part of Britain's culture, while, a quarter of drinkers (24%) believed there was nothing wrong with drinking to excess.

Source: Mintel Oxygen Reports

Further information:

1 September 2009 - Felicity Murray