UK drinkers are enjoying less alcohol, with new data revealing the biggest fall in consumption in 60 years.
The newly published British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) Statistical Handbook 2010 reveals a 6% decline in year-on-year alcohol consumption in 2009, which represents the largest fall since 1948.
It means that UK drinkers are now consuming 13% less alcohol than they did in 2004, with UK consumption below the EU average as the Government conducts a review of the licensing laws in England and Wales.
Beer remains consumers' favourite on-trade tipple, making up 60% of all alcohol sales in pubs, hotels and restaurants. Wine comes in second, with a 17% share.
In total, alcohol sales in the UK are worth £41b a year, with the on-trade selling £26.5b and supermarkets and other retailers contributing £14.5b in sales - albeit at a much lower unit price and sometimes as a loss-leader.
In terms of overall beer sales, the on-trade has £13.5b of the total £17b of sales each year, marking the beverage out as the lifeblood of the licensed trade.
BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: "These figures will confound many pundits, as yet again they confirm that as a nation, we are not drinking more. Those who suggest otherwise need to focus on the hard facts.
"This handbook also reminds us of just how vital a role beer and pubs play in the UK economy, in terms of turnover, jobs, and tax revenues. The new numbers show just how closely linked beer is to Britain's struggling pubs, with beer accounting for around 60% of on-trade sales. Policy-makers should take note."
The average cost of a pint of bitter is £2.58 and lager £2.95, with London remaining the most expensive region to buy a pint.
By Chris Druce
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