Dec 10, 2008

Mktg - Who's drinking what

Mark Dolliver

NEW YORK Some stereotypes are accurate, to judge by a GfK Custom Research survey conducted for The Wall Street Journal Europe about drinking habits in Europe and the U.S. For instance, the French really are a nation of wine drinkers. But some other findings from the survey, conducted during the fall, are less predictable.

About three in 10 of the poll's European respondents said they shun alcoholic drink altogether, as did four in 10 of the survey's Americans. Despite their countries' prominence as wine producers, "50 percent of Italians and Portuguese do not drink any alcohol." In Turkey, with its mainly Muslim population, the non-drinking figure tops 80 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, 14 percent of Greek and Swedish respondents identified themselves as teetotalers. The figure was just slightly higher in the Netherlands (15 percent) and Germany (18 percent).

Among people who do drink, the study's respondents in Western Europe were more likely to choose wine (including sparkling wine) than beer as their favorite alcoholic beverage, by 43 percent to 34 percent. Relatively few respondents in that region cited spirits (9 percent), cocktails/alcopops (8 percent) or liqueurs/fortified wines (6 percent) as their favorite. Wine was the favorite of 50 percent of respondents in both France and Belgium, and the favorite of 62 percent in both Italy and Switzerland. Beer topped wine by a significant margin in Germany (48 percent vs. 39 percent), but it did so by an even wider margin in Spain (49 percent vs. 24 percent).

In Central/Eastern Europe, beer was the favorite of 50 percent of respondents, with wine a distant runner-up (22 percent) and spirits just making it into double figures (10 percent). Russia was the one country in which respondents were about as likely to cite spirits (rather than beer or wine) as their alcoholic-beverage category of choice, with 30 percent picking it, vs. 35 percent for beer and 30 percent for wine.

In the U.S., beer had the most partisans (37 percent), but wine made a respectable second-place showing (28 percent), ahead of cocktails/alcopops (22 percent), spirits (10 percent) and liqueurs/fortified wines (3 percent).

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