Alcohol consumption per head dropped in 2014, but beer overtook wine in market share for the first time since 2006, according to new figures from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).
UK alcohol consumption dropped by 0.3% in 2014, the eighth drop in the past 10 years, according to the BBPA's annual figures, which are based on HMRC alcohol tax returns. Consumption per head is now 18.4% lower than in 2004, which puts consumption levels below those of 1998, and has seen levels drop to the lowest point this century.
Consumers drank 7.95 litres of alcohol in 1998, figures show, with consumption levels peaking at 9.51 litres in 2004. The figure has since fallen to 7.76 litres in 2014, and there was a decrease in consumption every year since 2004, except in 2007 (when it rose by 1.3% to 9.16 litres), and 2010 (up by 0.2% to 8.36 litres).
Despite this, beer has overtaken wine as the country's favourite drink: beer sales increased to 36% market share overall, compared to wine's 33% share, in the same time frame. This bucks the usual trend in beer's market share, which up until 2014 had fallen every year since 1995. Beer amassed 1.8% more beer duty in 2014, bringing in £3.36b extra to the Treasury.
Spirits' share held steady, at 21%, and cider at 8%.
The BBPA has said that this performance is "certain to increase calls" for a third consecutive cut in beer duty in the budget when Chancellor George Osborne announces it on 18 March.
Brigid Simmonds, BBPA chief executive, said: "While the figures certainly bury the myth that overall UK alcohol consumption is inexorably rising, it is hugely encouraging to see such a solid performance from beer in 2014.
"There is no doubt that two cuts in beer duty have had a huge impact in supporting a British-based industry and in encouraging consumers back towards our favourite, lower-strength drink."
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