Licensing laws likely the cause for Australia’s falling alcohol consumption
Australians are drinking less alcohol than their trans-Tasman neighbours, and are doing so less frequently than they did five years ago, according to research.
Seven in 10 Australian adults drink alcohol in any given month, though this figure is down by 2% on a corresponding study from 2009, and four points behind New Zealand’s rate of 74%—itself dropping from 77% five years ago—data from Roy Morgan Research shows.
But despite only this small gap in consumption, the rate of alcohol purchasing is much lower in Australia than in New Zealand—a difference that may be a result of the two countries’ liquor licensing laws.
In the year to June 2014, 49.6% of Australians bought alcohol in a four-week period, compared with 59.4% of Kiwis.
In each country, one particular channel is most popular among the vast majority (76%)—but in Australia that channel is individual retailers, while in New Zealand it’s licensed supermarkets.
Just over 45% of New Zealanders have bought alcohol from a licensed supermarket in the last four weeks, compared with only 9% of Australians. Instead, over 37% of Australians bought liquor from an individual retailer, compared with just under 30% of Kiwis. Moreover, nearly one in 10 bought from a hotel bottle shop, a channel used by just 1 in 100 New Zealanders.
Differences in licensing
Although Australia’s two main supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, each own numerous individual retailers, New Zealand’s major grocery supermarkets, which include Pak’n’Save, New World and Countdown, are all licensed to stock beer and wine on the shelves.
“In New Zealand, [a supermarket] is a one-stop shop for milk, bread, eggs and beer, whereas Australians have to make a separate trip to a separate retailer for their booze, even if it’s just next door to the parent supermarket,” said Angela Smith of Roy Morgan Research.
“That the gap between our rates of purchase is so much wider than the consumption gap suggests that having beer and wine available at the local supermarket means Kiwis buy their alcohol more regularly, while Australians tend to stock up during the separate, less regular trips to a liquor store like Dan Murphy’s, BWS, Liquorland, Vintage Cellars or First Choice—which all owned by one of the two supermarket giants.
“Further investigation of these patterns and comparisons could help licensing bodies, retailers and suppliers better understand the relationships between channel and consumption.”