Recent data from Numeris' RTS survey reveals a nuanced picture of alcohol consumption in Canada. Using SalesPRO we explore the key trends to shed light on how consumption has changed over the past 5 years, along with the categories experiencing a decline, and the lifestyle choices influencing these shifts.
1. Demographic trends: who is drinking less?
It's clear that Canadians, as a whole, are cutting back on alcohol consumption, with a more pronounced decline among younger age groups. The fall 2023 survey indicates that 25% of adults aged 18-34 report no alcohol consumption in the past month, compared to 17% in 2018. Similar trends are observed in the 35-54 age group, while the 55-64 and 65+ age groups show no significant change.
The fall 2023 survey indicates that 75% of adults aged 18-34 reported having consumed alcohol in the past month compared to 83% in 2018. We can see a similar decrease amongst the 35-54 age group. However, there is no change amongst the 55-64 age group and in fact a higher percentage of drinking in the 65+ age group.
% adults who have consumed any alcohol in the past month by age group
Women across all age groups are more likely to abstain than men, with a notable drop in alcohol consumption among women aged 18-34. In the fall 2023 survey, 72% of this group claimed to have drunk alcohol in the past month compared to 81% in fall 2018.
All regions across Canada have seen a decrease in the number of people who claim to drink alcohol. The Prairies had a slightly larger decrease compared to fall 2018, possibly due to the younger profile of their population.
2. Categories affected: what are people drinking less of?
Examining alcohol categories, beer consumption has seen a substantial decrease. In the latest survey, 30% of Canadian adults claim to have drunk beer in the past month compared to 46% in the Fall 2018 survey, a drop of 35%. Coolers/pre-mixed drinks, on the other hand, are gaining popularity, especially in the Prairies with a 22% increase.
% adults who have consumed alcohol in the past month by category
All types of wine, except rose, have declined, while spirits overall have seen a drop, with exceptions such as a 33% increase in gin consumption (up 67% in Quebec) and a 20% increase in tequila consumption (up 75% in Ontario).
Notably, the decline in beverage consumption extends beyond alcohol to include sugar-based carbonated drinks. Enhanced/flavoured water, sports energy drinks, and dairy alternatives, like soy milk, are the only soft drinks experiencing growth.
3. Lifestyle choices
There is a correlation between alcohol consumption and household income. Households earning less than $60,000 are 22% more likely to abstain. This group is more likely to be unemployed, a student, or in clerical/services occupations. They are also more likely to have recently graduated from university, moved out of their parent's home or to have had a child within the past two years.
These factors will govern a lot of their other consumption patterns as they spend less across all the retail categories measured in the RTS survey compared to those who have drunk alcohol in the past month
However, the habits of non-drinkers are evolving, likely influenced by their younger age profile. When comparing the results to the fall 2018 survey this group is more likely to say "I enjoy being extravagant/indulgent" or "Staying connected via social media is very important to me" than they were before.
Their leisure activities are evolving. Their participation in camping, yoga/pilates, home exercise, skiing and video games have all increased when compared to fall 2018 results. Also, 28% of them have been to a bar one or more times in the past year compared to only 19% in fall 2018.
4 Possible reasons for these trends
The decline in alcohol consumption can be attributed to various factors. Some say that our preference for a healthier lifestyle is driving this sober-curious trend. Add to this recent alcohol consumption guidelines issued by the government, inflationary pressures and the impact of cannabis legalization, it seems that this decline may continue. Recognizing these trends, beverage companies are exploring ways to maintain market share by introducing a greater variety of low and non-alcoholic options.
As Canadians' drinking habits evolve, driven by demographic shifts, lifestyle choices, and external factors, the alcohol industry faces the challenge of adapting to a changing market. The trends uncovered in this survey provide valuable insights for both media agencies and brands, emphasizing the importance of flexibility and innovation in responding to shifting preferences.