Estimate of alcohol consumption per adult in 2018

Posted on 14 March 2019

Alcohol consumption levels decline by almost 25% in less than two decades, while beer is most consumed drink 

  • Average alcohol consumption almost unchanged in 2018 compared to 2017, according to report by DCU economist Anthony Foley
  • 2018 average adult alcohol consumption is lower than 2016 levels
  • Beer is Ireland’s most popular drink: consumption of beer increased by +2.7%, spirits increased by +5.6%, cider by +0.4%, while wine consumption decreased by -2%
  • DIGI spokesperson: “We need to consider the long-term trend which is showing an almost 25% decrease in alcohol consumption over the past two decades.”

Since the peak of 2001, the average per adult alcohol consumption has declined by 23.2%, according to a report authored by DCU economist Anthony Foley.

The report, commissioned by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland, shows that while average per adult alcohol consumptionincreased in2018 by a very small +0.1% (11.094 litres of pure alcohol vs 11.080 in 2017), this figure is -23.2% lower than in 2001. 

Indeed, 2018 average adult alcohol consumption is also lower than 2016 levels, despite a strong economy, near full employment, and record tourism numbers.

Total consumption increased by +1.8% in 2018 while there was an increase in the adult population of +1.7%.



The report also shows that Irish consumer trends and tastes are changing in terms of consumption habits.

  • Beer is the most popular drink, making up a 45% of all consumption in 2018, a 2.7% increase on 2017.
  • Wine is the second most popular at 27%, but its popularity declined by 2% in 2018 on 2017.
  • Spirits ranksthird with 20.5% of all consumption, but with the highest year-on-year increase (+5.6% in 2018 compared to 2017).
  • Cider takes 7.5% of all consumption, up 0.4% in 2018 on 2017.

Commenting, a DIGI spokesperson said:  

“We saw a small increase in consumption in 2018 (+1.8%), while Ireland’s population also increased by 1.7%. This resulted in a 0.1% increase in average alcohol consumption per adult.

“Overall, the long-term decline in alcohol consumption over the past two decades indicates that Irish adults are enjoying spirits, wine and beer in a more accountable manner.

“The Irish drinks market is highly competitive and constantly evolving in line with consumer preferences and tastes. What we’ve witnessed over the last decade, but particularly over the last six years, is the growth of a new wave of businesses flexible and eager to serve shifts in consumer taste, and develop new, innovative products and services.

“The increase in spirits consumption is broadly in line with the fast growth of Ireland’s distilling industry.  In 2013, there were four active distilleries in Ireland; we now currently have 23 in operation. A further 24 are under development, with some planning to be in operation before the end of the year. These are large and small companies dotted nationwide. It is no surprise to see an increase in consumption of spirits, as we have seen a recent change in consumer behaviours, trends and habits towards higher quality and premium products.

“The small decrease in Ireland’s wine consumption is also interesting, especially considering the rise of the restaurant and ‘foodie’ culture in Ireland. While it’s probable that changing tastes and habits influence wine consumption, the decline may also relate to the fact that Ireland has the highest excise tax on wine in the European Union.


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