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Drinks hold out over food in cost-of-living crisis

Published:  28 September, 2022

On-trade drinking occasions are holding up despite the cost-of-living crisis, according to drinks insights agency, Proof Insight.

Price inflation and sky-rocketing energy rises have hit everyone hard, with over three-quarters (78%) of consumers feeling the pinch this autumn (a rise of 7 percentage points since Feb 2022).

However, research has shown that when faced with tighter spending budgets, consumers are more likely to consider drinks over food.

Against a £100 budget for a special night out, the research found that 21% would go for drinks in a pub/bar and 57% would go for dinner. When that budget is halved however, food is more heavily impacted. With £50 to spend, 19% would go for a drink (a decline of -2pp), whereas the number of those considering a meal declines by -23pp to 34%. When the budget is reduced further to £20, 14% would go out for drinks (-5pp) and only 7% would go out for dinner (-27pp).

The research goes further: when consumers look to restrict spend during meals, more consumers will limit food purchases over alcohol. For example, 40% will avoid a starter and 39% will avoid a dessert, whereas 24% will avoid alcohol.

The research also found that with a tighter budget, one in five (21%) consumers are drinking less often, but treating themselves to better quality drinks.

Anna Foskett, senior insight analyst at Proof said: "The unprecedented rise in the cost of living has led to consumers re-evaluating what is important to them; people want special occasions with loved ones over last-minute plans which often fall outside of monthly budgets. But what is really interesting is that when budgets are squeezed, food is the first casualty. Consumers would rather avoid a starter or dessert than reduce drink purchases.

"Consumers are prioritising drinks in the on-trade that they can’t recreate at home such as draught beer or a fun cocktail serve. In some instances, consumers are popping out for a drink in the local before home to cook or order food."

The research comes courtesy of Proof Panel POURtraits, a consumer panel survey conducted during February, May and September this year. Proof Insight was launched in 2020 as the insights division for Bibendum Wine. It has since become a standalone drinks insights agency, which still works with the wider C&C Group alongside other businesses in drinks and hospitality.