Bar sales far off boom lev­els as the na­tion cuts down on drink­ing

Irish Independent - - Business - El­lie Don­nelly

BAR sales in Ire­land have yet to re­turn to the highs seen in the Celtic Tiger, as con­sumers re­duce their al­co­hol con­sump­tion lev­els.

De­spite sales in­creas­ing by al­most 4pc last year, the vol­ume of bar sales, which in­cludes sales of food, soft drinks and cig­a­rettes, was three-quar­ters that of 11 years ago.

The fail­ure to re­turn to 2007 lev­els of sales is be­ing driven, in part, by changes in con­sumer pref­er­ences, as al­co­hol con­sump­tion lev­els de­cline. Last year the av­er­age adult con­sumed what works out at just over 11 litres of al­co­hol, down 1.4pc on 2016, and down a mas­sive 17.9pc on the av­er­age al­co­hol con­sump­tion of 13.5 litres in 2007.

Over­all, the ac­tual value of sales of al­co­hol in the Ir­ish mar­ket was €6.8bn last year, up slightly on 2016 fig­ures, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from the Drinks In­dus­try Group of Ire­land (DIGI).

The re­port, ‘The Drinks Mar­ket Per­for­mance 2017’, has been pub­lished ahead of the launch of DIGI’s 2018 ‘Sup­port Your Lo­cal’ campaign.

The campaign aims to high­light what the DIGI says are the pos­i­tive eco­nomic, cul­tural and so­cial con­tri­bu­tion that the drinks and wider hospi­tal­ity in­dus­try makes to Ire­land.

The pa­per is also calling for Gov­ern­ment sup­ports to en­sure the con­tin­ued growth and de­vel­op­ment of the in­dus­try.

Among the sup­ports that the re­port is calling for is a reduction in Ire­land’s al­co­hol ex­cise tax in the 2019 Bud­get.

Com­ment­ing on the re­port, Donal O’Ke­effe, sec­re­tary of DIGI and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Li­censed Vint­ners As­so­ci­a­tion, said it showed that the Ir­ish drinks in­dus­try is ro­bust, but that it faces a num­ber of chal­lenges that could plateau or even re­verse its up­wards growth.

“The drinks in­dus­try is in­te­gral to Ire­land’s eco­nomic health,” Mr O’Ke­effe said.

He added that “92,000 peo­ple work in the drinks in­dus­try alone, and the com­bined hospi­tal­ity sec­tor, which in­cludes pubs, ho­tels, restau­rants, brew­eries, dis­til­leries, re­tail­ers, man­u­fac­tur­ers and dis­trib­u­tors, em­ploys 204,000 peo­ple across the coun­try”.

Among the pos­si­ble threats to the in­dus­try cited by Mr O’Ke­effe are Brexit, which he said made it harder for ex­porters in the drinks in­dus­try to plan for the fu­ture.

“If it’s harder to trade with the UK or North­ern Ire­land, and ster­ling re­mains weak, rev­enues will de­cline due to trade bar­ri­ers and a de­crease in over­seas visi­tors,” Mr O’Ke­effe said.

The re­port also found that con­sumer tastes are chang­ing when it comes to al­co­hol.

While beer re­mains the na­tion’s most pop­u­lar al­co­holic bev­er­age, mak­ing up a 44.8pc share of the al­co­hol prod­uct mar­ket last year, the vol­ume of beer con­sumed was down

2.1pc on 2016. How­ever spir­its such as gin, which is en­joy­ing some­thing of a resur­gence, saw their share of the al­co­hol mar­ket in­crease by al­most 4pc to ac­count for just un­der a fifth of the al­co­hol prod­uct mar­ket in 2017.

Wine re­mains the sec­ond most pop­u­lar drink, mak­ing up

28pc of the mar­ket.

“The Ir­ish drinks mar­ket is highly com­pet­i­tive and con­stantly evolv­ing in line with con­sumer pref­er­ences and tastes,” Mr O’Ke­effe said.

“What we’ve wit­nessed over the last decade is the growth of a na­tion­wide net­work of

busi­nesses flex­i­ble and ea­ger to serve shifts in con­sumer taste, and de­velop new, in­no­va­tive prod­ucts and ser­vices.”

The DIGI is the umbrella or­gan­i­sa­tion for the wider drinks and hospi­tal­ity in­dus­try in Ire­land.

Its mem­ber­ship spans man­u­fac­tur­ers, dis­trib­u­tors and the re­tail sec­tors in Ire­land.

Its mem­bers in­clude the Al­co­hol Bev­er­age Fed­er­a­tion of Ire­land, Li­cenced Vint­ners As­so­ci­a­tion, the Restau­rants As­so­ci­a­tion of Ire­land, and the Ir­ish Ho­tels Fed­er­a­tion.

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