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Drinking Habits PDF Print E-mail
Written by MINTEL   
28 Aug 2005
French and Germans call time on drinking, while it's one more round for the Brits

Latest research from MINTEL shows that in two of Europe's largest economies, France and Germany, social, economic and political changes have lead to many consumers turning their backs on alcohol. Indeed, in France consumption fell by 6% between 1999 and 2004 to stand at just under 6 billion litres and in Germany it fell by some 8% over the same five year period to below 12 billion litres. What is more, MINTEL's five year forecasts suggest that alcohol consumption in these two countries is set to decline further, leaving the alcohol industries in France and Germany faced with yet more challenging times ahead.

"In France and Germany the cultural zeitgeist seems to be moving towards healthier lifestyles and away from alcohol consumption. Many adults, particularly the younger generation, are becoming increasingly health-conscious and as a result many have switched partly or entirely to non-alcoholic drinks. Stringent legislation relating to the advertising of alcoholic drinks will have also had an impact on these markets, while in Germany continuing high unemployment and consequent economic worries have undoubtedly contributed to this trend," explains Hanna Kivimaki, senior consumer analyst at MINTEL.

In stark contrast to this in neighbouring Britain alcohol consumption has increased by some 5% between 1999 and 2004 to break the 8 billion litre barrier. Indeed, it is the British (88%), who are the most likely to have had an alcoholic drink in the last 12 months, marginally ahead of the French (86%). The Germans lag some way behind, with only seven in ten (70%) having drunk alcohol in the past year.

Wine drinking: French put a cork in it
Today, it seems that the French are not reaching for the wine bottle as readily as they once were. Indeed, in France volume sales of wine fell by some 4% between 1999 and 2004. But while the wine sector is struggling to maintain popularity in France, in Germany and in particular in the UK, people just can't get enough. Wine consumption in Germany increased by 4% over the same review period, while in the UK wine saw a very impressive increase of some 23% during this time.

"Wine is an integral part of the French heritage but the industry has lately lost its way. While wine remains the largest alcoholic drinks sector in France, it is losing its traditional and central role as a meal accompaniment and for many water has become a more common drink at meal times.

Meanwhile, in the UK, there is a new cosmopolitanism that has helped drive what has been perhaps the most outstanding feature of the UK drinks markets since the 1990s - the rise and rise of wine consumption. Value sales of wine in the UK are now larger than sales of spirits and the market has been driven by rising incomes, more 'aspirational' drinking habits, a trend towards home entertaining and by a massive promotional push from suppliers and retailers. The popularity of wine amongst women has also helped drive this impressive market growth," comments Hanna Kivimaki.

Beer bellies: A thing of the past?
Just as wine in France is losing popularity, in Germany the time-honoured tradition of drinking beer seems to be slowly falling out of favour. Although beer still accounts for 80% of German alcohol consumption, the beer market experienced a significant 10% decline in volume sales between 1999 and 2004, to fall well below 10 billion litres. In fact, this decline is the biggest fall in consumption seen by any of the German alcoholic drinks markets. Beer is also becoming less popular in France, also down by 10% over the same five year period. Even in the UK beer volume sales have only just managed to remain static, despite Britain's love of the pub, where a pint of lager is often the drink of choice.

"Traditionally, beer is the Germans’ number-one choice, when it comes to drinking alcohol, but it now faces increasing competition from alternatives such as wine and FABs, which are particularly popular among the younger drinkers. In France too beer is widely regarded as a warm weather drink rather than a year-round drink," comments Hanna Kivimaki.

Britain's sozzled spending spree
Of these three markets, the UK alcohol market has experienced the greatest rise in value, with sales estimated at almost 56 billion Euros in 2004, a rise of some 15% since 1999. Although the French do appear to be drinking less, they are in fact also spending more on alcoholic drinks, with the market value increasing by 7% over the same five year period to some 42 billion Euros. In the UK and France rising disposable incomes and higher aspirations have driven one of the major trends in the alcoholic drinks market - premiumisation, where people are drinking less, but spending more on better quality beverages.

Germany on the other hand is struggling. The combined value of the German alcohol market reached some 47 billion Euros in 2004, a decline of almost 4% on 1999 levels and 1.5% on the previous year.

It's a man's world
In France, Germany and the UK men are more likely than women to drink alcohol, with Germany experiencing the biggest gender gap. Indeed, just 61% of German women drink alcohol, compared to some 80% of German men.

When it comes to age, those who are the most likely to drink alcohol varies quite considerably from country to country. In Germany it is the younger 20 - 24 year olds who are the biggest drinkers, by contrast in France these younger adults (the under-25s) are the least likely to drink alcohol. In fact, in France, it is the older over 55 year olds, who are most likely to indulge, while in the UK drinking alcohol is evenly spread across adults of all ages (24 - 64 years old).
About Mintel
Mintel is a worldwide leader of competitive media, product and consumer intelligence. For more than 30 years, Mintel has provided key insight into leading global trends. With offices in Chicago, London, Belfast and Sydney, Mintel's innovative product line provides unique data that has a direct impact on client success. For more information on Mintel, please visit their Web site at

Last Updated ( 28 Aug 2005 )
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