Talking Trade

Consumer attitudes to the industry — Amárach Consulting’s Gerard O’Neill

Gerard O’Neil, the Managing Director of Amárach Consulting has an impressive pedigree in gathering data on the drinks industry. Over the past few years he’s worked with Diageo and Heineken Ireland as well as with the LVA and VFI. We commissioned him to find out more about the present thinking of the consumer in relation to alcohol consumption, the pub, pub visits and alcohol sponsorship. Here, he talks over the findings with Drinks Industry Ireland's Pat Nolan.

Drinks Industry Ireland commissioned Amárach Consulting to carry out a February survey of consumers’ attitudes to the pub among other topics. It involved nearly 1,000 adults over the age of 18 and began by asking them, “How often do you typically drink alcohol?”.

The responses returned:

2-3 times a week:                 25%
Once a week:                       32%
Once a month:                     18%
Once every few months:      13%
I don’t drink all:                     13%

“I suppose what this tells us firstly is that the vast majority of people, 87%, drink alcohol,” comments Gerard, “The incidence of those who don’t drink is slightly higher amongst over 45s in that 16% of this segment don’t drink at all.”

Pub intentions
More pertinently, we asked, “Compared to last year, how often do you think you’ll go to the pub over the coming year?”
A surprising 44% respond ‘less often’ while 35% confirm that they’ll be going ‘about the same amount’. Some 6% look forward to going more often (the remainder never go to the pub).

“The big concern here is that around four in 10 of the over-18s surveyed say that they think they’ll be going to the pub less often in the next 12 months,” comments Gerard, “And one good thing: some 16% of 18-24 year-olds say they’ll be going to the pub more often and that’s one of the big challenges for the on-trade: recruiting among this age group.

“But while we’ve 18-24s going more often, one important caveat is that among the 25-34s 55% expect to go less often in the next 12 months.

“Is this possibly a life-stage effect, a necessary economy for young marrieds?” he speculates.

Something for the weekend
When asked “Which of the following ‘entertainments’ do you partake in on an average weekend?”, ‘staying home and watching TV/sport’ tops the list at 59%.

Shopping comes second at 33%.

“Not surprisingly, perhaps, females (38%) are more prominent than males (28%) in choosing this activity while 31% plump for going for a meal. Again here, there’s a fairly clear woman/man split with 34% of women putting this forward as against 26% of men.”

Going to the cinema/theatre/concert is preferred by 30%.

“In fact a very large population of younger age groups at around 48% of 18-24s would see it as a big part of their weekend,” says Gerard, “Going to the pub garners 23% of the responses and again there’s a very big difference between men and women; in fact it’s the reverse of the shopping item – 29% for men and 16% for women.”

What can we learn from this?

“If going to the pub for a meal is something that could be better packaged, then you’ll get more women prepared to go to the pub,” he asserts.

16% opt to partake in sport (24% of men and 9% of women).

Playing sport emerges as being most popular among 25-34s – which he finds surprising.
“They’re also the group most likely to cut down on pub-going in the year ahead,” he warns.

Support for sponsorship

Alcoholic drinks sponsorship is certainly a hot topic with suppliers.

We ask,  “Should alcoholic drinks companies continue to sponsor sport?”.

“There’s a high level of agreement – 46% – that they should continue against 23% who disagree,” observes Gerard, “So on balance, these companies should continue to sponsor it.

“People seem generally positive towards sponsorship of this nature. What comes across is that there’s a level of maturity in understanding what drinks sponsorship is all about.

“Support for drink companies sponsoring sport is favourable in both men and women and in all age groups – typically a ratio of two-to-one in favour.

“I was encouraged by these findings” he adds, “as I thought there would be more antipathy towards drinks sponsorship of sport. But in fact it’s quite favourable.”

Sponsorship & increased alcohol consumption
We also put it to consumers that, “Sponsorship of sporting events by alcohol companies leads to an increase in alcohol consumption by fans of various sports” to find that more people disagree (41%) with that statement than agree with it (33%).

“What’s interesting is that there’s no real gender difference here but a big age difference,” comments Gerard, “In fact across all age groups more people disagree than agree, but only one age group is more likely to agree than disagree – the 18-24s.”

It was also put to respondents: “Sponsorship of sporting events by alcohol companies leads to brand loyalty towards that drinks company or brand” to find that more people agree with this statement (37%) than disagree (24%).

Under-35s are much more likely to agree with it than over 35s.

Supermarkets selling alcohol below-cost remains a source of much angst in the licensed trade.

We ask, “If the price of alcohol rose in the supermarkets significantly, do you think you’d go to the pub more or less often?”.

The response is startling. Only 12% would go more often. The vast majority – 68% – would continue going as frequently as they’ve always done and 20% would actually go less often, according to the survey.

“What we learn from this is that, on balance, putting up the price of alcohol in the supermarkets would actually be bad for pubs,” Gerard ventures, “People are not going to switch to the pub, judging by these figures, but are going to have less money to spend in the pub after they’d purchased the now more expensive alcohol at the supermarket for their home consumption.”

Pub stimulants
Finally we ask, “What would make you go to the pub more often over the coming year?”

60% respond ‘a reduction in drinks prices’ – “But people always say that,” smiles Gerard.

Significantly, ‘more entertainment’ comes second (34%) – giving people a reason to go to the pub beyond drink.

“One of the big differences between men and women is ‘entertainment’,” he says, “ ‘More entertainment’ is picked by just 27% of men but by 41% of women so if you want to get more women into the pub, consider laying on more entertainment.
“It’s interesting too that people are also likely to cite ‘a better selection of food’ than ‘a better selection of drinks’ (22% versus 15%).”

‘Better facilities’ scores 22% while ‘longer opening hours’ garners just 13% support and ‘more live sport’ just 10% (males 18%. Females a mere 2%).

Perhaps the road ahead for publicans seems a bit clearer?

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