LONDON: Health concerns may be rising up the political agenda, but British drinking habits show no signs of slowing down, says a new report from the research firm Mintel.

While the overall volume of alcohol consumed in the UK has been static since 2000, the trend towards higher strength beers and wines accounts for a 10% rise in pure alcohol consumption over the same period.

Says Jonny Forsyth, senior drinks analyst at Mintel: "In the 1970's, a bottle of wine may have been around 11% in ABV terms and now the same bottle is more likely to be around 13%.”

“Ironically, despite a greater societal concern with being healthy, by stealth we are drinking more pure alcohol than ever."

After some years in the marketing wilderness, reduced alcohol brands such as Kaliber,first introduced by Guinness in 1986, are firmly back on supermarket shelves.

Mintel believes that expansion in the low-alcohol drinks sector will continue to change habits and lift drink industry profits.

Contrary to popular belief, the appeal of binge drinking amongst younger people is on the decrease. In the past five years, the number of men aged 18-24 drinking at least 2 or 3 three times a week has decreased by 13%, while the figure rises to 26% for women of the same age.

In contrast, regular weekly consumption of alcohol by the by 45-64 year olds is, says Mintel, on the increase. 

Despite the negative connotations attached to binge drinking, nearly 60% of consumers claim to be more aware of campaigns encouraging them to drink responsibly, and 49% say they are more aware of excessive drinking then they used to be.

But a massive 42% of consumers claim binge drinking is part of Britain's culture, while a quarter of the sample (24%) believe there is nothing wrong with drinking to excess.

Data sourced from Mintel; additional content by WARC staff