In 2019, 491 million litres of alcoholic drinks were available for sale in New Zealand (this is a proxy measure of the alcohol we consume):
- 298 million litres of beer;
- 108 million litres of wine;
- 85 million litres of spirits and spirit-based drinks.
Beer comprises 61% of the total volume of alcoholic beverages consumed in NZ, followed by wine (22%) and spirits (17%)
The figure of 491 million litres is a small (1.7%) increase from 2018 (482 million litres).
However, these beverages are often different alcohol strengths (e.g. a beer can be 4% but spirits can be 40%), so the volume of what we drink doesn't tell us how much alcohol we have consumed as a country.
Consumption of the 491 million litres equated to 35 million litres of pure alcohol, or 8.9 litres of pure alcohol per person aged 15 and above. To put this into perspective, it is the same as every person aged over 18 years consuming two standard drinks per person every day of the year (i.e. 2 cans of beer (330ml, 4% alcohol) or 2 glasses of wine (12.5%; 100ml)). In reality, New Zealand drinkers don't all drink the same amount. We know that approximately 46% of all alcohol sold in New Zealand is consumed in heavy drinking occasions, ie. 8 or more standard drinks for men and 4 or more standard drinks for women.
In 2019, beer, wine and spirits contributed almost equally to our pure alcohol intake. Beer contributed 13.1 million litres or pure alcohol, wine 11.2 million litres, followed by spirits with 11 million litres.
In relation to NZers consumption of pure alcohol (ethanol), we consume an almost equal amount from beer (37%), wine (32%) and spirits (31%)
New Zealanders are increasingly becoming spirits drinkers - in 2004 spirits contributed 23% of pure alcohol intake, in 2019 spirits contributed 31%.
New Zealand drinking compared to other countries
New Zealanders typically drink a large amount of alcohol in a drinking occasion. Although we drink less (overall) than the Irish and British (and slightly less than Australians), we drink more than Americans, Canadians and South Africans.
We also need to note that our assessment of per capita consumption in New Zealand, when we are comparing countries, is out of date. This is because our per capita consumption calculations are not based on the alcohol content of products in our current market (the per capital calculations assume products have a lower alcohol strength than they currently do). For this reason, we believe that the per capita consumption estimate in New Zealand (of 8.9 litres per person) is likely to be an under-estimate of the true value.
Be careful of estimates of per capita alcohol consumption in NZ; the estimates are based on the concentration of alcohol in products sold in the 1970-80s
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