It is important to learn about the alcohol industry as they have a large influence on national and local alcohol decisions in New Zealand.
In New Zealand, the production and sale of alcohol is a multi-billion dollar industry. The key players can be broadly categorised into four groups:
- Growers – e.g. vineyards;
- Manufacturers - wineries, breweries and distillers;
- Retail distributors - supermarkets, bottle stores, grocery stores
- Hospitality sector – cafés, restaurants, bars and clubs.
This section will focus on the alcohol industry as it relates to consumption in New Zealand.
Background: What New Zealanders drink
Amount of alcoholic beverages we drink
Because a tax is placed on all alcohol beverages, every 3 months (when the amount of tax paid on alcohol is released) we can see how much alcohol is available for consumption in New Zealand and how much is exported. From the domestic figures released by Statistics New Zealand, in the year 2020:
495 million litres of alcoholic drinks were available for domestic consumption:
- 293 million litres of beer,
- 112 million litres of wine,
- 89 million litres of spirits and spirit-based drinks.
New Zealanders drink more beer by volume - we drink over 2.6 times as much beer than wine, and over 3.3 times as much beer than spirits & spirit-based drinks.
Volume of pure alcohol from these beverages
The same volume of different beverages can contribute different amounts of alcohol for consumption. For example, one litre of spirits has a higher alcohol content than one litre of beer.
Therefore in terms of pure alcohol available, each type of alcoholic beverages contributes a similar proportion of pure alcohol:
- 12.9 million litres of pure alcohol comes from beer,
- 11.7 million litres from wine,
- and 11.4 million litres from spirits and spirit-based drinks.
This totals 36 million litres of pure alcohol per year or 8.7 litres per person aged over 15 years. This means that every New Zealander drinks an average of almost 2 standard drinks per day. However, in reality, we know that rather than New Zealanders drinking small amounts daily, almost half of all alcohol (46%) in New Zealand is consumed in heavy drinking sessions.
Generally, about 87% of all the alcohol sold in New Zealand is produced locally, and 13% is imported. Bottled spirits are more frequently imported in comparison to beer and RTDs which are often made in New Zealand. We also export about 33% of all alcohol made in New Zealand.
The largest producers of alcohol in New Zealand
The two major alcohol producers in New Zealand are Lion Pty Ltd and DB Breweries Ltd. Both companies are owned overseas. Among the top five producers, only Delegat’s wine is a New Zealand-owned company.
The beer industry
Two major breweries dominate the New Zealand beer market: Lion and DB Breweries. The key consumers of beer in New Zealand are young adult males.
Although beer became available in supermarkets in 1999, there has been a downward trend in the volume of beer sold in New Zealand, from 322.5 million litres in 2008 to 279.9 million litres in 2012. Since then, there appeared to have an increasing trend in the volume of beer available for consumption. In 2020, there were 292.7 million litres of beer available for consumption.
Recent trends show that there has been growth in sales volumes of premium brand craft beers and also in low-strength beer (following the introduction of the lower blood alcohol limits for drivers in 2014). In 2020, the volume of high-strength beer was over 5 times the volume in 2010, and now comprises over 15% of the total volume of beer available to the New Zealand market.
The wine industry
There are almost 700 wineries in New Zealand. By far the biggest wine producers in New Zealand are Lion (Japan), Pernod Ricard (French), Treasury Estate Wines (NZ), Delegat's Wine Group (NZ), Constellation Wines (USA), and Villa Maria (NZ).
Since becoming available for sale in supermarkets in 1989, consumption of wine has more than doubled since 1984 to 95 million litres in 2009. In 2020, there were 113 million litres of wine available for consumption. New Zealand research has shown that the introduction of wine into supermarkets had a significant impact on consumption. Today, around 60% of all wine is sold through supermarkets.
Wine has shown the greatest increases in affordability over time. Today, New Zealanders drink almost twice as much white wine as red wine.
Wine contributes significantly to trade. It is New Zealand’s fifth largest export good.
It is important to note that New Zealand is only major wine producing nation to have a single industry body, representing and advocating for the interests of its entire grape and wine industry. This is called the New Zealand Winegrowers Association.
Spirits, RTDs, and Liqueurs
In 2020, 89.3 million litres of spirits and spirit-based (RTDs & Liqueurs) beverages were available for domestic consumption (rose 5.2 per cent from the previous year). The volume of spirits increased from 9.4 million litres in 2003 to 15.5 million litres in 2020 (rose 4.4 per cent from 2019). The volume of spirit-based beverages increased from 34.5 million litres in 2003 to around 73.8 million litres in 2020 (rose 5.4 per cent from 2019).
In 2010, Minister of Justice Simon Power announced plans to prohibit the sale of RTDs with greater than 5% alcohol content or 1.5 standard drinks per container. However, this plan never came to fruition and the Government decided not to introduce regulations regarding the maximum strength of an RTD, but rather, permit manufacturers to set up their own rules. The industry decided that the maximum strength of an RTD would be 7% or two standard drinks per bottle or can.
Spirits are consumed by all age groups and across both sexes. Pure spirits are more often consumed by older age groups whilst RTDs are preferentially consumed by young men and women.
The contribution of spirits and spirits-based drinks to New Zealand’s pure alcohol intake has been increasing over time, from 23.4% in 2005 to 31.6% in 2020. There is strong evidence since the introduction of RTDs into the market increased alcohol consumption markedly among young females aged 14 to 17 years.
The largest retailers of alcohol in New Zealand
In New Zealand, the purchasing of alcohol from off-licences has increased over time. From 1986 to 2016, the proportion of all alcohol sold was from off-licences increased from approximately 59% to 75%.
The 3000-plus off-licences in New Zealand comprises bottle stores, grocery stores, supermarkets, winemakers, taverns/hotels, breweries, catering companies, and others. Over one-third of off-licences are standalone bottle stores, whilst >10% are grocery stores, and >10% are supermarkets.
The supermarket (which can only sell beer, wine (includes cider) and mead) is the most widely used channel for purchasing alcohol.
Alcohol sales from supermarkets have changed considerably over time. In 2000, the supermarket share of beer sales was 12% and for wine it was 43%. In 2008, they sold around 30% of all beer and just under 60% of all wine. In 2008 it was estimated that beer and wine sales in supermarkets were worth $1 billion.
There are two major supermarket chains in New Zealand: Woolworth New Zealand (184 Countdown stores, 62 Fresh Choice and Supervalue stores) and Foodstuffs (140 New World stores, >50 PaknSave stores, 240 Four Square stores).
The Ministry of Justice has stated that the price is so cheap that many smaller bottle stores buy their alcohol products from supermarkets.
Today, around 250,000 residents of West Auckland cannot buy alcohol from their supermarkets as off-licence supply is controlled by the Portage and Waitakere Licensing Trusts. No supermarkets in the Invercargill Licensing Trust can sell alcohol.
There are almost 1000 bottle stores in New Zealand. It is important to know that many of these are owned by larger alcohol producers and retailers.
For example, Liquorland and Henry’s Beer Wines & Spirits are owned by Foodstuffs. In 2016, Foodstuffs bought the retail chain The Mill Liquorsave from Independent Liquor Ltd, and rebranded them as Liquorland stores. Liquor King, is owned by Lion.
Hospitality sector (on-licences)
The number of on-licences has trebled from 2423 in 1990 to 7565 in 2010. From 2000 to 2009 there was a 26% increase in the number of pubs and a 37% increase in the number of licensed cafés and restaurants.
The NZ Hospitality Association plays a major role in the supply of alcohol in the on-licence sector, representing 3,000 hospitality and commercial accommodation businesses throughout the country. The Association advocates on behalf of its members. They have been involved as an interested party in the appeals to Local Alcohol Policies around New Zealand.
The Restaurant Association of New Zealand also represents the interests of those working in the restaurant business.
An effective Healthy Marae approach
As described by Forster and Ratima, it is important that any programme:
- has the support of the local Māori community and facilitates community participation
- is controlled and delivered by Māori for Māori
- facilitates the development of the Māori health workforce
- reflects the needs, preferences and aspirations of the local Māori community
- takes a holistic approach to health which incorporates a whānau focus
- develops links with other healthy Marae programmes and builds on the experience of other programmes
- develops links with relevant agencies, in particular those which are potential sources of practical support and resources
If you want to engage your Marae in reducing alcohol-related harm, think about the following:
- There are likely to be different protocols across Marae for raising alcohol as an issue. You will need to find out what the protocol is in your Marae - there are different ways of doing things and getting the issue onto the agenda.
- Usually the process involves contacting a key person or champion in the Marae. They may be a mover or a shaker within the Marae. There may also be a Board or Committee member you could also talk to. This process may take time - be prepared to take small steps in your journey.
- It all starts with a genuine kōrero. From there the Marae leaders can consider their plan of action. Following this, a strategy or policy can be developed and implemented.
- You may also want to engage local health providers in mobilising action and/or providing support.
Examples of Marae policies on alcohol
Following tikanga wananga (a discussion on Marae customs and protocols), Marae have implemented policies that include:
- alcohol-free Marae - see here for an example
- no alcohol on Marae during tangihanga
- a permit requiring Marae committee approval for functions that involve alcohol
- a ban on driving after drinking on the Marae
- assistance and support to those identified with alcohol issues
These are just a few of the options to choose from.
Get help for those in need
There are dedicated kaupapa Māori alcohol and other drug services available. Click here to find services in your location.
As written by Forster and Ratima in 1997
Traditionally, a Marae was the space or area in front of the meeting house. In contemporary times this definition has been extended to include the entire complex, all of the buildings and the grounds that are associated with the meeting house. The Marae provides a central point for the local Māori community and an environment where Māori cultural practices are the norm.
Marae-based programmes can offer a unique environment to improve health and reduce harm - programmes can enhance access to te ao Maori (the Māori world) by emphasising tikanga, whānau and a holistic approach to health.
It is also believed that Marae-based programmes can:
- address access barriers to getting help
- offer a more comfortable, social and relaxed environment to talk about issues
- strengthen the mandate for action by the community and so enable empowerment and control
Many Marae-based programmes are already in place throughout the country - to reduce smoking, improve healthy eating etc.
Alcohol and the Marae
Pre-European Māori were one of few societies NOT TO have manufactured or used psychoactive substances. Early Māori petitioned Parliament for the total prohibition of alcohol.
Many Marae have taken strong action to provide a healthy and safe environment for all to thrive.
Both iwi-based or urban Marae have developed policies in relation to alcohol use at the Marae. Some have gone further and sought to identify persons and their whānau who may need support in relation to alcohol use.
Many Marae have placed a rāhui or ban on alcohol in the Marae.
Pre-European Māori were one of very societies in the world NOT TO produce their own waipiro / alcohol.
Māori experience significant inequities in alcohol use and harm. These inequities are preventable and are driven by many factors in our society including racism, availability of alcohol, deprivation, access to services, and past and present impacts of colonisation.
In 2019/20, Māori males were 1.6 times more likely to be hazardous drinkers than non-Māori males.
In 2019/20, Māori females are 2.2 times more likely to be hazardous drinkers than non-Māori females
Rates of hazardous drinking among Māori women increased substantially from 2011 to 2016.
Māori are more likely to experience alcohol-related harm than non-Māori. Young Māori males are more negatively impacted by living in close proximity to alcohol outlets than European young males - the reason for this is currently unknown.
Biological differences between Māori and non-Māori do not explain the inequities that Māori face in relation to alcohol - wider societal and environmental factors must be the focus in preventing and reducing harm.
Costs outweigh revenue from alcohol tax
The revenue that the Government receives from alcohol taxes does not come close to matching the costs of alcohol-related harm to our society.In 2020, alcohol contributed $1.193 billion of government revenue in the form of excise tax.
In contrast, alcohol misuse is estimated to cost New Zealand society $7.85 billion each year. This includes costs resulting from lost productivity, unemployment, as well as justice, health, ACC, welfare costs, etc.
Costs of alcohol harm exceed that of other drug harm.
It is estimated that :
- 11% of all ACC claims are attributed to alcohol-related injuries.
- 18% of the New Zealand Police budget is spent on alcohol incidents.
Cost to productivity
Alcohol also results in major losses of productivity in workplaces and schools -
- In 2012/13, male drinkers (4%) were 1.6 times more likely to be absent from work or studies than female drinkers (2.5%); and
- In 2012/13, male drinkers (6.9%) were 1.4 times more likely to experience negative financial effects due to their drinking than female drinkers.
Every year, 147,500 adults take one or more days off work or school due to their alcohol use. A total of 84,400 adults have experienced harmful effects on their work, study or employment because of alcohol.
In 2012, 6% of adolescent drinkers report having their work or school affected in the last year due to alcohol. Among those students living in the most deprived areas, 8% report problems with work or school (exacerbating existing inequities in outcomes).
Our drinking landscape - alcohol is over-supplied and advertised heavily
Our drinking landscape has changed considerably over the last 30 years. We have seen dramatic increases in the number of places selling alcohol, the affordability and types of alcoholic products available, and use of innovative marketing strategies to advertise them.
Today, there are over 11,000 places that sell alcohol:
- 1641 club licences
- 6628 on-licences (bars, restaurants, café, etc)
- 2904 off-licences (9 auctioneer, 942 bottle stores, 92 brewers, 9 caterers, 58 chartered clubs, 41 complementary, 4 conveyances, 16 distillery, 3 function centres, 341 grocery store, 150 hotels, 128 other, 266 mail order, 51 restaurant, 327 supermarket, 233 taverns, 234 wine makers)
A brief history of the liberalisation of our alcohol laws
Beginning in 1989, new liquor laws increased the availability of alcohol across New Zealand - wine entered our supermarkets in 1989 and beer became available in supermarkets and grocery stores in 1999.
Today, around 75% of all alcohol in New Zealand is sold from off-licences: 43% from bottle stores and 32% from supermarkets and grocery stores. Often at very cheap prices.
More liquor outlets are concentrated in low income suburbs than more socio-economically advantaged suburbs.
The increasingly availability of Ready to Drinks (RTDs) has had a huge impact on heavy drinking in New Zealand, particularly among young girls.
Alcohol has become more affordable over time. This is especially so for wine.
In total, New Zealanders spend around $5 billion every year on alcohol.
Until 1980, alcohol advertising on radio and television was regulated by law - only advertising of outlets and services was permitted, but not corporate or brand advertising.
In 1991, alcohol brand advertising was permitted on television after 9.00pm. However, to provide balance against alcohol industry advertising, free broadcasting time was to be allocated to health promotion messages. In 1992, alcohol advertising was permitted under self-regulation by the industry. For more information, click here.
Research in 2004 found that within prime-time television viewing in New Zealand, a scene depicting alcohol occurred every 9 minutes.
In 2009, it was estimated that $200,000 was spent each day advertising alcohol in New Zealand.
In 1999, the minimum legal age to purchase alcohol was reduced from 20 to 18 years.
Everything we care deeply about will start to improve when we reduce alcohol harm. With less alcohol harm, we can; improve our mental wellbeing, reduce suicide and family harm, have safer roads and communities, improve our physical health (e.g. fewer injuries and cancers) and lift employment and productivity. We can open up space to enable genuine conversations, trust and creativity.
As a result of substantial cost savings from reduced harm, every New Zealander stands to benefit. Our core services and sectors, such as ACC, police, health, welfare and justice will experience the greatest gains from reduced harm.
The possibilities are endless. Watch the video below and click the links to learn more.
Past year drinking
In 2020/21, almost four in every five (or 78.5%) New Zealand adults aged 15+ year had an alcoholic drink in the past year This prevalence was significantly lower than in 2019/20 (81.6%) and had returned to around the level of past-year drinking in 2011/12 (79.5%).
Almost 4 in every 5 New Zealand adults have consumed alcohol in the past year
Males (81.8%) were more likely to drink than females (75.2%).
For more detail on past-year drinking, click here.
The overall prevalence of, and inequities in, hazardous drinking in the total population has remained unchanged over many years. In 2020/21, almost one in every five (or 19.9%) New Zealanders had a hazardous drinking pattern. This equates to 824,000 NZ adults aged 15+ years.
Almost 1 in every 5 New Zealand adults has a hazardous drinking pattern that places them and/or others at risk of harm
Note: ‘Hazardous drinking’ refers to an established alcohol drinking pattern that carries a risk of harming the drinker’s physical or mental health or having harmful social effects on the drinker or others. It is determined by using the World Health Organisation's AUDIT checklist - a score of 8 or more indicates hazardous drinking.
Males (26.9%) were 2 times as likely as females (13.2%) to be hazardous drinkers.
Whilst 18 to 24 year olds maintain the highest prevalence of drinking in the country (total 34.9%; 41% for men, 28.5% for women), hazardous drinking patterns remain prevalent throughout older age groups in New Zealand, particularly among men.
Inequities in consumption persist - in 2020/21 Māori were more likely to be hazardous drinkers than non-Māori, especially for wāhine Māori who reported a hazardous drinking prevalence that was 1.89 times higher than non-Māori women. Māori men reported a hazardous drinking prevalence 1.61 times higher than non-Māori men.
For more detail on hazardous drinking, click here.
Heavy episodic drinking at least monthly
In 2020/21, 21.4% of adults aged 15+ reported consumption of six more or more drinks on one occasion, at least monthly.
More than 1 in every 5 New Zealand adults report monthly consumption of 6+ drinks in one occasion
Heavy drinking at least monthly, significantly decreased among the age group of 45-54 years (30%), compared with 24.6%, respectively, in 2019/20. These are one-year increases; we await further data to determine whether this is a real trend or random fluctuation.
Heavy episodic drinking at least weekly
In 2020/21, 12.1% of adults aged 15+ reported consumption of six or more drinks on one occasion, at least weekly.
Almost 1 in every 8 New Zealand adults report weekly consumption of 6+ drinks in one occasion
Heavy episodic drinking at least weekly significantly decreased among the age group of 45-54 years (14.9%), compared with 19% in 2019/20. These are one-year increases; we await further data to determine whether this is a real trend or random fluctuation.
Alcohol use disorders
There is a lack of information on the number of New Zealanders with a diagnosis of alcohol use disorders.
In 2006, it was estimated that just over 4% of the population in their lifetime will experience alcohol addiction and 11% will experience alcohol abuse.
In 2006, it was found that 4.2% of the population reported symptoms of alcohol abuse (2.6%) or dependence (1.3%) in the past year. This equates to over 100,000 New Zealanders.
Every year (since 2011/12), the Ministry of Health carries out the largest survey into the health and well-being of New Zealanders. It is called the New Zealand Health Survey (NZHS).
The survey is designed to yield an annual sample size of approximately 14,000 adults aged 15 years and over. The data is collected at the respondents’ homes, with the interviewer entering responses directly into a laptop computer and/or asking the respondent to complete a section of the interview by themselves using the laptop computer. The 2020/21 survey, taking place during the pandemic, also used a computer-assisted video interviewing (CAVI) approach for a small sample of participants.
The NZHS 2020/21 represents the sample selected for the period September 2020 to August 2021. For some periods in 2020 and 2021, the survey was suspended in parts of New Zealand that had known community outbreaks of COVID-19. As a result, the sample size for 2020/21 is smaller than usual and the 95% confidence intervals around some estimates are wider than usual. The methodology report is available here.
In 2020/21, the final weighted response rate was 77%. The final sample was 9,709 adults aged 15 years and over.
Learn more here
What we drinkRead More...
Drinking in the past year
Trends in hazardous drinking
Drinking trends in adolescents
Drinking trends in older adults
Covid-19 and NZ drinking