Belgium, famous as the world's finest producer of beer, is losing its taste for its own products, according to date released this week.

The country instead is turning its attention to coffee and soft drinks with average beer consumption among Belgians falling  by a quarter in the last two decades, according to a study by the national statistics office.

In 1980 the average Belgian consumed around 131.3 litres of beer. But this number had dropped to about 98 litres in 2000. The study compiled numbers obtained from local brewing federations.

The study revealed that beer was now the fourth most popular drink in Belgium last year. It was beaten by soft drinks, water and at the top of the league coffee. Health concerns were cited as part of the reason.

Belgium now ranks only seventh among the world's biggest beer drinkers, falling behind the Danes, Austrians, Luxembourgers, Irish, Germans, and Czechs, who held first place with an average consumption of 158.5 litres (35 Imp gallons), the study said.