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A recent client note from beverage analysts at Bernstein looks at four major myths surrounding alcohol - and why they are wrong. Here is a just-drinks summary of the findings.

Alcohol consumption has been flat in the US and on the rise in some major European countries

Alcohol consumption has been flat in the US and on the rise in some major European countries

Myth 1 - Alcohol consumption is in decline in developed markets

The general consensus in the drinks industry is that people are drinking less, especially in the developed world. That assumption has led not only to a drive for premiumisation, but also a fresh interest in no- and low-alcohol and - in some cases - a diversification into cannabis.

Well, Bernstein has news for you. Consumers in North American and northern European countries may be drinking fewer overall volumes of alcoholic beverages, but that's more down to the switch from beer to spirits. When it comes to pure alcohol consumption, per capita trends are flat in the US and rising in the UK, Spain and Italy. Indeed, in the UK, although more people claim they are abstaining from alcohol, per capita consumption is up 6% in the past three years. Is this "despair over the Brexit omnishambles" Bernstein asks?

There are, however, a couple of countries bucking these trends: Germany and Australia have both seen per capita pure alcohol consumption fall.

Myth 2 - Young people are drinking less

What has happened to the youth of today? Judging by the slew of media reports on the issue, they'd much rather sip a post-workout cold brew latte than have a beer in a bar. This image of the health-conscious, alcohol-shy Millennial, however, doesn't square with the facts in the US, the world's most valuable beverage market, Bernstein says.

"US men aged 21 to 34 are drinking as much as the same cohort did ten years ago and twenty years ago, and 21-to 34-year-old women are drinking more," analysts at the group say.

What is true is that under-age drinking in the US and Europe has declined, which can only be good news for an industry under pressure from health groups.

Myth 3 - Cannabis is cannibalising alcohol

Bernstein firmly believes that cannabis consumption has had no effect on alcohol sales in US states where it has been legalised (In some states, beer consumption has even gone up). This view is backed by comments from the industry and other reports.

However, Bernstein warns that the future may bring new methods of cannabis delivery that could upset the alcoholic beverage market - for example, vaping or short-onset edibles. Younger consumers could also have different ideas to previous generations over the harm of alcohol compared to cannabis.

Myth 4 - Beer is more fattening that spirits

This is true, but only if comparing beer to neat spirits, Bernstein says. Add in non-diet mixers, and the calorie contents level out. Indeed, in terms of calories-per-unit of alcohol in a range of drinks studied by Bernstein, a pina colada cocktail came out top. If you're looking to lose weight, the analysts suggest a vodka soda. But, as they remark, compared to the cocktail, it "certainly doesn't taste as good".

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