Alcohol sales worst month on record

26th May 2020 | Eativity editors

Last month, research from the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education found that 70% of Australians were drinking more than usual, due to the COVID-19 lockdown. But new reports from Australia’s largest beer, cider, wine and spirit producers have shown dramatic volume declines due to the pandemic. This suggests that Australians are actually drinking less overall. This is great news for our health, but not such welcome news to the hospitality industry, which has suffered massive job losses and a crippling drop in revenue.

Announcing the release of the Impact of COVID-19 on the Drinks Industry report, Alcohol Beverages Australia (ABA) CEO Andrew Wilsmore says, “despite some initial pantry filling in March, April has been the worst month on record for sales of beer, wine and spirits. Pubs, clubs and bars are shut and there is no sport on TV, no live music or group gatherings.”

The biggest category, beer, saw a 44% drop in April. Cider saw the biggest decline at 61%.

Wine producers have suffered big losses during the pandemic.

“Wine producers are also reporting volume losses of up to 70% among small and medium sized enterprises who rely on restaurants as their main route to market,” Wilsmore says.

Major wine brands have also suffered a drop in sales, and spirits and ready-to-drinks also saw a significant decline.

“We knew that the total loss of trade from pubs, bars, clubs, and restaurants was never going to be made up for by a brief, small surge in panic buying during the week people were concerned bottle shops would close,” Wilsmore says.

Initial panic buying has not made up for the loss of trade.

The good news: we’re drinking less overall

The ABA’s findings are consistent with Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data showing that alcohol consumption has fallen during the COVID-19 crisis. The data found that the vast majority (85.6%) of Australians are drinking responsibly during the pandemic shutdown – most Australians’ behaviour is either unchanged or they’re drinking less.

ABS data shows that 30% of Australians are largely abstaining, 47% are drinking the same and 10% are drinking less. Only 14% reported that their drinking had increased.

DrinkWise sought to dig deeper, commissioning independent research into Australian adults’ experiences of purchasing alcohol and drinking at home, through a nationally representative sample of 1000 consumers.

Of those who chose to drink, the research found that drinkers were maintaining average consumption of three standard drinks. Over the course of the week, this amounted to just over eight standard drinks in total – well within the official government guidelines.

For Australians who reported their consumption of alcohol at home had increased, the vast majority continued to drink at moderate levels.

The hospitality industry has been hit hard.

The bad news: loss of jobs and revenue

The alcohol sector has been the most severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic as lockdowns and social distancing forced the closure of pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants. The loss of jobs and revenue in this sector has been crippling, Wilsmore says.

“At the peak of isolation measures, 441,400 jobs had been lost in hotels, pubs, clubs, restaurants, cafes, takeaway, coffee shops, accommodation hotels and casinos,” he says. “This represents a loss of a third of their total workforce.”

Meanwhile, the hospitality sector has seen a staggering $8.5 billion fall in revenue, which represents 10% of their annual sales.