But, while usage levels are dropping, Mintel’s Drinking in the Home – UK reveals that just 29 per cent of those drinking at home pay attention to the alcoholic strength (ABV level) of their drink.
And despite preconception, it’s younger drinkers who’re most likely to pay attention as 38 per cent of 18 to 24 year-old in-home drinkers say that they pay attention to ABV levels compared with 27 per cent of 25-64s.
“As a nation well-acquainted with booze, most adults have a vague idea of their drink’s strength,” commented Alex Beckett, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, “Younger people drink more and are more likely to drink purely to get drunk, so their interest in the strength could relate to pacing their intake or that they’re eager to consume the most intoxicating drink. But hampered with tighter household budgets, people have cut back on drinking in the home, though it remains the more affordable alternative to drinking in a pub or bar to the detriment of on-trade growth.”
Not only is the overall level of drinking in UK homes in decline so too is the frequency, with a clear shift over the 2006-11 period away from heavy usage. Those classed as ‘heavy users’ (drinking two or three times a week or more) have dropped from 46 per cent in 2006 to 43 per cent in 2010 and just 41 per cent in 2011.
Nevertheless, the relatively affordable appeal of in-home drinking is having an effect on the social habits of younger drinkers. Some 38 per cent of 18- to 24 year-old in-home drinkers agree that they and their friends are increasingly drinking in each other’s homes instead of going out. This relates to the wider ‘pre-loading’ trend in which over half (54 per cent) of 18 to 24 year-old in-home drinkers drink at home before going out to save money, compared with just seven per cent of over-45s.
Reflecting their higher overall usage of alcoholic drinks, men are also more likely than women to drink at home. Of the 74 per cent of male drinkers who drink in-home, nearly half (46 per cent) drink two to three times a week or more.
Total volume sales in the UK’s in-home drinking market fell by 1.7 per cent between 2010 and 2011 to 3.7 billion litres as squeezed household incomes in the UK, rising prices and health awareness hit penetration. However the value of the in-home drinking market climbed by 3.4 per cent to £13.8 billion in 2010-11, reflecting the rising price of alcohol driven by duty hikes, VAT and higher production costs.
And it appears the economic climate continues to make an impact on budget-conscious consumers when drinking at home. Today, a third (31 per cent) of British consumers only buy booze when it’s on special offer. This rises to 37 per cent of women – which is significant considering they are the bigger shoppers. In addition, some 69 per cent of in-home drinkers feel they are saving money if they drink in-home rather than out and a further one in five (22 per cent) drink at home before going out to save money. Despite this, it seems that consumers do subscribe to the old adage “you get what you pay for” as more than half (53 per cent) of in-home drinkers would pay more for a better quality drink, highlighting the opportunities that exist outside the discount end, according to Mintel.
The opportunity for brands to win over new customers in the off-trade environment is further highlighted by the finding that two fifths (38 per cent) of in-home drinkers prefer to experiment with unfamiliar brands when drinking at home. That nearly three in 10 (28 per cent) drinkers can appreciate the taste of their drink more when at home presents opportunities for brands to focus marketing on the actual savouring of flavours, positioning in-home drinking as an indulgent activity. Significantly for NPD, a large minority (38 per cent) of in-home drinkers are more likely to try unfamiliar drinks when at home than when in a bar.
“Home is more likely to provide an unhurried atmosphere in which to savour a new drink than a busy bar but this finding also relates to the sheer variety of interesting tipples supermarkets now offer,” Alex Beckett explained.
The top five alcoholic drinks consumed at home in the UK are: white wine (53 per cent), lager (49 per cent), red wine (48 per cent), rose wine & cider (both at 33 per cent) and vodka (28 per cent). Festive celebrations such as New Year and Christmas are the most likely occasions on which people drink in their home (62 per cent) on a par with relaxing in the evening (61 per cent).
Mintel’s research also reveals interesting trends about regional drinking habits. While consumers most likely to drink at home are in the South West (75 per cent of those who consume alcohol in the region drink at home), the region with the heaviest drinkers is Yorkshire and the Humberside – with 45 per cent of those in the region drinking two to three times a week or more.