A pint for him, a spritzer for her?

Much has been written about binge-drinking and increased female alcohol intake, but some things are constant: men are still drinking lager and women want wine

There has been increasing concern about binge-drinking, particularly among young people, and its effect on health over recent years. But according to new research from TNS, consumer attitudes to alcohol and drinking are changing.

The TNS AlcoVision survey shows that a growing number of adults claim they are teetotal. In 1980, 13 per cent of consumers – eight per cent of men and 16 per cent of women – said that they did not drink in 1980. This has now risen to 18 per cent, with 16 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women claiming that they do not drink.

Of those consumers who do enjoy a tipple, more are now drinking at home, with 58 per cent of all alcohol consumed in the year to June 2004 being drunk at home.

According to TNS, the change in where alcohol is consumed has been driven by factors such as health, lack of time and involvement in a wider range of leisure activities both in and out of the home. Perhaps surprisingly, there has been a significant decline in the number of men drinking in pubs, most notably in Scotland, the Midlands and the South.

The most popular alcoholic drink consumed by adults in licensed premises continues to be standard lager, which includes brands such as Carling or Foster’s. Standard lager accounts for 20 per cent of the licensed-premises alcohol market, while premium lagers such as Stella Artois account for a further 18 per cent. Both in and out of the home, consumption of premium lager is a growth area, driven by men aged between 25 and 49 years old. Its 18 per cent share of out-of-home alcohol consumption compares with 14 per cent in 2001. In-the-home consumption has risen from nine per cent in 2001 to 13 per cent now.

Wine is the most popular drink for women, both in and out of the home, but there is a wide difference between the amount consumed in bars and pubs and that drunk at home. In the year to June, some 55 per cent of all alcohol drunk in the home by women was wine, but this falls to just 24 per cent of all alcohol consumed in licensed premises. This could be a result of the varying quality of wine served in pubs, and also the high mark-up in price.

Further analysis of the alcohol market by TNS shows that 57 per cent of all alcohol consumption by women in pubs and restaurants occurs during the evening at weekends, with just 21 per cent consumed on weekday evenings. In contrast, men are more likely than women to drink in the daytime and midweek. In the home, 40 per cent of alcohol consumption by women occurs during the evening at weekends, compared with 36 per cent during the week.

The research also reveals that men are far more likely to drink alcohol when out of the home, with 11 per cent of men visiting licensed premises three or more times a week. This compares with just three per cent of women who do so. The contrast is less apparent in the home, with 16 per cent of men and 12 per cent of women drinking alcohol three or more times a week. Perhaps surprisingly, given recent media coverage of loutish behaviour and binge-drinking, men aged between 18 and 24 have shown the largest decline in frequent drinking in recent years, with just 26 per cent drinking three or more times a week in 2004, compared with 32 per cent in 2002.

The south of the country stands out, with both men and women more likely to drink at least three times a week than those in other parts of the country. In addition, men over the age of 50 and women aged 35 to 49 years old drink more frequently than other age groups.

In recent years, there has been a shift in people’s reasons for going out for a drink. Consumers are now more likely to drink with friends as a treat or break rather than to get drunk or wind down after a stressful day. There is also an increasing trend for women to visit licensed premises to have a quiet drink, something that was traditionally more of a male domain. Having a big night out is a more popular occasion for women and it accounts for ten per cent of all visits to pubs, bars and restaurants. On the other hand, this type of occasion accounts for just three per cent of visits to pubs, bars and restaurants made by men.

The challenges for the drinks industry, then, is how best to adapt to the changes in where people drink and the types of alcohol consumed. How marketing activity addresses these issues will have a significant impact on the relative roles and importance of men and women in the alcohol market in the future.

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