Tastes veering away from beer

Callum Munro (left) and Ronnie Priestley, both 22, share a beer in Cargill St. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Callum Munro (left) and Ronnie Priestley, both 22, share a beer in Cargill St. Photo: Peter McIntosh
The image of the beer-drinking Scarfie may be becoming a thing of the past.

Data released by Statistics New Zealand yesterday showed that the demand for alcohol had continued to fall in recent years, with beer being no exception.

The total volume of alcoholic beverages available for consumption dropped 4.3% last year to 477 million litres, following a decrease of 0.3% in 2022 and a rise of 0.9% in 2021.

When it came to beer, this fell 4.4% last year to 281 million litres, after a 0.5% rise in 2022.

Over the past 15 years, beer consumption had dropped from 65% to 59%, while spirits and spirit-based drinks increased from 15% to 20%.

Spirits and spirit-based drinks, including ready-to-drinks (RTDs), dropped 5.7% last year despite increases of 3.2% in 2022 and 12% in 2021.

University of Otago student Ronnie Priestley said his drink of choice was usually beer, and had been for a long time, but he had found that this O Week he had opted for RTDs.

"I like beer — I’m a big beer guy," he said.

"But when it comes to a casual event these days ... I could get a lot more out of two bottles of cheap wine.

"For a proper event I feel like there’s more value in having a box of RTDs — you can get more out of that than a box of beer these days."

While there was still a lot of beer drinking, he had noticed students generally opted more towards RTDs due to their variety and price point, Mr Priestley said.

"I’m all about value — that’s why I’ve dropped out of beer drinking.

"Beer is the best, but value-wise at the moment, it’s kind of not the best."

His flatmate Callum Munro said his drink of choice was Scrumpy, as it was cheaper to buy and came in an amount he preferred.

"The cost of beer is definitely kind of daunting when it comes down to it ... $20 or $30 at the end of the week which you’re looking to take out of whatever you’ve got remaining after you do your study work."

Students for Sensible Drug Policy Otepoti president Max Phillips said they had seen an "onslaught" of alcohol marketing during Flo and O Week targeting students.

Major Major had been offering free 30ml samples at Tent City and a "large" advertisement for Kirin Hyoketsu had been displayed on the old dairy flat in Castle St, he said.

Mr Phillips said this targeted marketing had mostly been for RTD products, and could correlate with a decrease in beer consumption.

"The consumption of alcohol within North Dunedin’s population is now primarily at flat parties where RTDs pack a punch in the ease which they can be drunk, quickly and excessively."

Brewers Association New Zealand executive director Dylan Firth said the main drivers of the decline in beer were a tight economic environment for consumer spending and increased operational costs.

The decline in consumption was "widespread", he said.

"Of particular concern is the disproportionate impact of declining beer consumption on the hospitality sector, which heavily relies on beverage sales to sustain its operations.