Number of RTD drinkers has more than doubled since March 2020

February 15, 2024
By Cody Profaca

Data from Roy Morgan’s latest Alcohol Consumption Report shows that the amount of legal drinking age Australians who consume alcohol in any given month exceeded 14 million people in the 12 months up to September 2023. This equates to 68.1% of the legal drinking age population, a 1.8% increase on pre-pandemic figures.

The report clearly highlighted the strong performance of RTD, reflecting existing IWSR data that attributed the category’s ability to reinvent itself and to adapt to its consumers as key factors driving its success. According to the Roy Morgan Alcohol Consumption Report, RTD consumption increased from 2,138,000 Australians (10.8%) pre-pandemic to 4,319,000 (21%) in late 2023. This growth is reflected by IWSR data which reported a 7% CAGR for RTD sales between 2018 and 2022. 

Wine and RTD were the only two categories that reported growth in the latest Roy Morgan report. 

“The rapid increase in the consumption of alcohol during the pandemic years of 2020-21 was driven by increases for all four of the major alcohol categories – wine, beer, spirits and RTDs,” said Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine.

“However, as the pandemic subsided, these four categories experienced very different trajectories of consumption.”

Wine continues to be a clear leader in the Australian market, being consumed by 44.1% of legal drinking aged Australians in an average four week period. This is an increase from the 41% that consumed wine in March 2020.

The report suggests that the Australian liquor industry is beginning to settle after the pandemic-induced changes to trend patterns.

“The short-term pandemic related trend peaked in the 12 months to June 2021 with overall consumption of alcohol reaching a high of 69.7% of Australian adults,” said Levine.

“Since then, the share of adults consuming alcohol has declined by 1.6% points to 68.1%. However, the growth in population over the last two years means the raw number of adults drinking an alcohol beverage has continued to increase since mid-pandemic – up 105,000 to a record high 14,013,000.” 

The Alcohol Consumption Report also discusses the pandemic-induced boost to the spirits category which saw the proportion of regular spirits drinkers reach 33.8% in the 12 months to December 2021. 

“The spike in the drinking of spirits experienced during the pandemic has proved short-lived with 5,623,000 Australian adults now drinking spirits in an average four weeks, down 201,000 on a year ago and down over 1.1 million from the pandemic peak of spirits consumption in 2021,” said Levine.

The proportion of Australians who regularly drank spirits decreased from 28.7% in March 2020 to 27.3% in September 2023, worrying news for an industry that is currently concerned about its stability in the face of further tax excise increases. Despite this, Roy Morgan’s CEO believes that the consumption of spirits will eventually return to pre-pandemic levels.

“The trends we are seeing in the post-pandemic period suggest consumption of wine has found a new high above pre-pandemic levels while consumption of spirits looks set to return to pre-pandemic levels. 

“The good news is that consumption of RTDs such as vodka, gin, bourbon and rum has been on a sharp rise in recent years and that trend has continued despite the challenging economic circumstances faced by many Australians.”

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