French Drinking Less But With More Style

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The French were once mighty consumers of wine, with the average citizen knocking back 257 litres of the stuff in 1961. Today, it's a mere 86 litres, but they're spending more of their household budget on it than they used to

“I like drinking but not getting drunk.” So said the Belgian surrealist and writer Louis Scrutenaire, who could well have been writing about the French today, who drink far less wine but who seemed to have learned to enjoy it more.

According to one consumer barometer published on Thursday by the Association Entreprise & Prévention, French people drink occasionally and devote a larger budget towards alcohol, drinking 86 litres on average today, compared to 257 litres 52 years ago.

According to this study, half of all French people consume alcohol less than once a week. Outside of the home, a minority of them (45%) consume alcoholic drinks, and then usually as an accompaniment to a meal.

“The French, who are less and less regular consumers, tend to dedicate themselves to the occasional consumption and up the ante in the quality of choice,” says Alexis Capitant, director general of the alcohol prevention association. “We can see that there is a simultaneous lowering of quantities purchased and a raising of the average budget spent on alcohol.”

The first indicator of these tendencies was a study carried out by pollsters IFOP on the frequency of use of alcoholic drinks showing that the daily consumption habits are now reduced to just one French person in ten. Most French people either have a drink on a weekly (39%) or even a monthly (24%) basis and 11% of them say that they drink “every two or three months”, while 15% don’t drink any alcohol, according to the study.

The other indicator is that of the purchasing patterns of households, an area analysed by the company Kantar Worldpanel from a representative study group of 12,000 French households and covering the full spectrum of places of purchase (supermarkets, hypermarkets, corner shops, etc.). It shows a continual lowering in the quantities of alcoholic drinks purchased (down by 6.5 litres on average since 2007) and an upwards tendency in the average budget allocated to alcohol since 2008 (up by an average of €21.30). The latter phenomenon is explained by a rise in the quality of range chosen. This tendency has strengthened in 2012 when there was an increase in duties on wines and spirits in France and should continue upwards in 2013 with an increase on taxes on beer.

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