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Time to sober up? Global alcoholic drink consumption declines

Global alcoholic drinks volumes registered a decline of 0.7 percent in 2015, entering negative territory for the first time in more than a decade, according to new research published by Euromonitor International, translating into a loss of 1.7 billion liters of alcoholic drinks volume sales since 2014.

The market analysis firm's data offered some sobering insights for global drinks companies on Thursday, with data confirming that global alcoholic drinks consumption declined in many countries in 2015, notably in anticipated growth markets China, Brazil and Russia.

The report noted that "historic growth narratives derailed due to the influence of macro headwinds hitting China, which recorded a 3.5 percent decline. Brazil and Eastern Europe showed further weaknesses, falling 2.5 and 4.9 percent, respectively."

While Western Europe and Australasia flatlined, North America's 2.3 percent growth "provided a shot of optimism in an otherwise sobering global landscape where even the potential of AMEA (Asia, Middle East and Africa) was diluted by currency volatility and commodity price fluctuations," the report said.

Craft beer bar
Taketan | Getty Images

China still represents the largest alcoholic drinks market, followed by the U.S. and Brazil while Germany is the fourth largest market for alcoholic drinks globally and is the largest European market, despite its 1.5 percent decline of alcoholic drinks volume in 2014-2015.

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Still, in terms of per capita consumption of alcoholic drinks, nine out of the top ten markets are based in Europe, with Australia representing the exception. Countries in the region dealing with economic hardship, such as Greece, Russia and Ukraine, also saw declines in alcoholic drinks volumes.

Drinking trends

Senior Alcoholic Drinks analyst at Euromonitor International, Spiros Malandrakis, said that the types of drink gaining popularity reflected the tastes of young, aspirational drinkers in mature western markets.

"While terms such as authenticity and craftsmanship are losing traction, the trajectories of sophistication, moderation, perceived exotic credentials, accessibility and restrained yet grounded aspirational attributes remain the key driving forces fuelling pockets of buoyancy."

"Premium English gin, Irish and Japanese whiskey, dark and non-alcoholic beer are the flag bearers of growth and it is no coincidence that those also happen to be the segments gaining further momentum with the ever important millennial demographic in mature western markets."

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Beyond those performers, tequila and bourbon remained solid, he said, while cognac bounced back strongly. Cider performed well but had softened as Americans moved to hard soda drinks. Rum and vodka were among the worst performers, while still light white and red wine varietals (wine made from a single named grape variety) joined sparkling wines at "healthy levels."

"While initial forecasts suggest a gradual recovery from 2016, performance will remain substandard compared to historical trajectories. It is not the industry's vision that is impaired but rather the horizon that can be treacherous." Malandrakis concluded.

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