THE IMAGE of the Frenchman standing at a bar, downing a petit rouge, is long gone; as far as alcohol is concerned, the French prefer to drink at home. They are also buying less and paying more.
Despite France’s reputation of having a bar at every corner, three out of five of people said they only drank at home, while 16 per cent said they did not drink at all. Only five per cent of people said they drank in bars and just four per cent in cafes.
People described themselves as weekly or monthly drinkers, with just 15 per cent saying they were daily drinkers, and the majority being men aged over 60.
The shift away from drinking in bars to drinking at home has been happening for years, but the smoking ban and the economic crisis have accelerated the trend.
The average household is also spending less on drink but buying better: spending on average €0.30 more for each product than in 2007, up from €3.90 to €4.20 per litre. The average annual drink budget has fallen from €313.80 in 2007 to €309.40 in 2010.
Bacardi-Martini France research chief Aurélie de Canteloube said this was known as “premiumisation” in the industry and manufacturers reacted by offering more high-end products for occasional consumption. Pernod Ricard brands manager Thierry Billot gave the example of Chivas Regal 12-year-old whisky, which was sold recently in a Christian Lacroix limited-edition bottle.
Beer sales in bars have also been hit, with 75 per cent sold for home consumption; Brasseurs de France manager Pascal Chèvremont said French people preferred to spend their spare time at home with friends.
He added: “For the price of a pression in a cafe or restaurant, the consumer can buy a pack of beer to share with friends at home.”
The study was carried out on behalf of alcohol pressure group Entreprise & Prévention, which said it was changing the emphasis of its safe drinking campaigns as a result. It pointed to a 2008 study by Heineken that showed more than a third of French people were paying “more and more attention” to how much they were drinking.