Total spending on drinks by British consumers in bars, cafés, restaurants and hotels is set to increase by almost 10% in the next five years, from £26.7 billion in 2003 to £29.1 billion in 2008, according to research out last week. 

The figures from research group Datamonitor show that France came a close second with sales of £22 billion, while Germany came in a distant third with £18 billion. Growth in spending is driven by the rise in mid-week going out, female drinking and affluent mid-life singles with time, money and desire to go out. Datamonitor forecasts that average yearly spend in the on-trade per Briton will hit £625 by 2008.
 
According to the research, going out in the working week is becoming more popular at the expense of staying in to drink. The number of mid-week drinking occasions in Europe is forecast to rise by 15% over the next five years. This is due to consumers' desire to maintain a work/life balance, extend the weekend, and avoid the crowds of peak time. 
 
The rise in mid-week occasions will lead to people consuming less alcohol and turning to lower quantities of premium beverages.  The value of soft drink sales as a percentage of the total on-trade sales in the UK is set to increase from just over 10% in 2003 to almost 13% in 2008.

"People are more likely to avoid alcohol due to work commitments.  Rising concerns over health issues associated with alcohol consumption have added to the trend towards non-alcoholic beverages too," comments Danielle Rebelo, consumer markets analyst at Datamonitor and author of the report. 

Women's drinking habits radically changed in the past decades.  Women' per capita consumption of alcoholic drinks in the UK increased by almost 27% between 1998 and 2003 and shows no sign of slowing down.

Young British women aged between 18 and 24 are by far the largest drinkers of alcoholic drinks in Europe, with annual per capita consumption of 203 litres in 2003, compared to only 63 liters among young Italian women.  German women are second only to Britons with annual per capita consumption of 192 litres.
 
"The feminization of alcohol has had the single biggest impact on the on-trade in the past fifteen years and has affected male drinking habits," said Rebelo. 

Female consumption of alcoholic drinks will increase by almost 27% over the next five years, reaching 152 litres per women in 2008.  The continued rise in female drinking has seen the introduction of feminine beverages such as Archers Aqua and Baileys Glide and the feminisation of traditional male drinks. For example, Young's have introduced the Acclaim Champion beer, which is a refreshing beer with a subtle flavour of passion fruit to appeal to women's sweeter tastes. 

"Altering the format of male-orientated beverages, such as beer, through appropriate brand extensions can appeal to women whilst maintaining the masculine image for the original brand," said Rebelo. Courage's Kronenberg Blanc, with hints of grapefruit, melon and lemon, appeals to women and more importantly brings the Kronenbourg brand to the minds of females who can influence men.  The growing market for women drinkers has also led to a growth in more diversified drinking establishments such as eateries, bars and Mediterranean style cafés.