Average amount of alcohol in New Zealanders' drinks hits 18 year low

Palmerston North brewer Steve Fox says Kiwis are drinking craft beer like wine, and sharing a bottle among friends.
Paul Mitchell

Palmerston North brewer Steve Fox says Kiwis are drinking craft beer like wine, and sharing a bottle among friends.

More sophisticated palates and the introduction of strict drink driving laws are believed to be factors in a reduction in the volume of alcohol in New Zealanders' drinks.  

The volume of alcohol available for consumption on New Zealand streets has hit an 18 year low, according to Statistics NZ, though the amount of alcoholic beverages we consume has stayed the same.

Statistics New Zealand senior manager Jason Attewell said the the total volume of alcohol available in 2015 was the equivalent of two standard drinks a day per person. 

That was down 4.1 per cent on the previous year and the lowest volume of alcohol available per capita since 1997.

Brewers Guild of New Zealand president Emma McCashin said there was a growing trend among Kiwis about drinking for quality rather than quantity.

"New Zealand drinkers are definitely getting more sophisticated in their drinking," McCashin said.

"They're trying different styles of beer...people like that they can just have something that tastes nice to drink and not just get drunk." 

While the amount of alcohol New Zealanders are consuming has gone down, the figures showed we were still drinking roughly the same number of alcoholic drinks.

The amount of beer consumed in 2015 was down by only 0.1 per cent.

Attewell said the statistics revealed Kiwis were going for a different mix of drinks than they had in the past

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"[The volume of] low-strength beer was up on 2014. [But] high-strength beer is also up, and has doubled in the last five years, reflecting the growing demand for craft beers."

Hospitality New Zealand regional manager Chris Hince​ said the popularity of craft beer showed a "maturing of the Kiwi palate" but the lower total volume of alcohol was also partially because of changes in the law.

From December 1, 2014 the alcohol limit for drivers aged 20 years and over went from 400mcg of alcohol per litre of breath to 250mcg, which has seen many bars offer more low alcohol beverages and food. 

"There has been an absolute explosion in the availability of low-alcohol beer after the drink driving limit change," he said

Palmerston North's Cuba Street Breweries director Steve Fox said while people might be drinking low-alcohol beers to avoid getting too "smashed", high-alcohol craft beers were seen as a bit of a treat.

"You can't just drink them like a regular beer," he said.

"People treat it more like a bottle of wine and share a single bottle with a group of friends over dinner."

In contrast to beer, the amount of  wine available for consumption in New Zealand fell three per cent over 2015.

Attewell said this coincided with a rise in the value and quantity of wine exports from New Zealand,  and reflected the larger proportion of locally-produced wine being exported.

"Certainly there are a lot more women drinking beer since craft beer came about," he said.

"So it might be they're drinking less wine and opting for beer instead."

There were definite similarities between wine connoisseurs and craft beer drinkers, especially in terms of discussions about different flavours and styles, McCashin said.

"People are actually having it over the dinner table and matching it with food."

 

 - Stuff

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