Kiwis Are Changing What They’re Drinking, but Not How Much

Figures from Statistics NZ show alcohol beverages available for consumption has remained relatively unchanged on the same period last year, indicating New Zealanders are continuing the trend of moderation.

Bridget MacDonald, NZABC Executive Director

There were 8.734 litres of alcohol available per head of population (15 years and older) in December 2021 compared to 8.727 litres in December 2020. Overall, New Zealanders are consuming around 25 percent less than the 70s and 80s.

“The alcohol available for consumption has remained fairly static over the past year. This supports what we’ve been seeing for some time: people aren’t drinking more – they’re drinking more moderately. Interestingly, they are switching what they drink and are exploring other categories. As a result, wine consumption decreased (-4.3%) as did beer (-0.3%), and spirits increased (+12%),” noted NZ Alcohol Beverages Council (NZABC) Executive Director, Bridget MacDonald.

MacDonald explained that some of the rise in spirit volume can be attributed to what would usually be purchased duty-free moving into the domestic market since duty-free trade is virtually zero at the moment. However, a global trend toward premiumisation is likely driving the increase in spirits.

“We’re changing how we are drinking. Trends like premiumisation are about choosing a quality drink that may cost a little more, such as a premium or craft beer, a fine wine, cocktail or a premium spirit or liqueur, and then taking a ‘sip and savour’ approach to enjoy the flavours and the experience of their drink in a slow and relaxed way. Consumer research shows that 56% of Kiwis say they had a premium drink in the past year. People have also become a little more adventurous with trying new flavours like indigenous botanicals in a gin made by local distillers or making their own cocktails,” continued MacDonald.

“The health and wellbeing trend seen globally and in New Zealand, particularly amongst young adults, is influencing demand for ‘better for me’ drinks, such as zero-alcohol beers, lighter wines, low-alcohol seltzers, and lower carb and sugar options. Consumer research shows nearly half (47%) of adults had a low-alcohol beverage in the past year, that’s up 7% on the previous year. Zero-alcohol beers (under 1.15% abv) continue to be popular, with the category increasing 177% on the previous year.

“Overall, we’re seeing a shift to moderation and better drinking decisions, and there is a wider range of beverages for people to choose whatever the occasion based on their personal situation, circumstances and lifestyle.”

The data shows little change in standard drinks consumed per person (+0.1%). Other research by the Health Promotion Agency shows 82% of New Zealanders drink at or below the recommended weekly limit advice of no more than three standard drinks per day for men or no more than two standard drinks per day for women. The advice also calls for two alcohol-free days a week, which the research says 92% of people are doing.

“Alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation and as part of a balanced lifestyle, but it is important to take time to think about ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ we are drinking, consider no- and low-alcohol options, and check out online information at and that can help us make better drinking decisions.”