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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 August 2005, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
UK alcohol sales 'buck the trend'
A man sips wine
Wine has fuelled the rise in alcohol sales in the UK
Alcohol sales are rising in Britain while the French and Germans are buying less, a report says.

The 5% rise in sales from 1999 to 2004 was fuelled by demand for wine as UK overall consumption broke through the 8bn litre-mark, Mintel said.

Some 88% of Britons drank alcohol in the last year, ahead of the French at 86% and the Germans at 70%, the consumer research group study showed.

Alcohol Concern said the rise was harming health and causing violence.

The report comes just a week after Office of National Statistics figures showed the number of alcohol-related deaths in England and Wales has risen by nearly a fifth in the last four years.

It is clear that problem drinking has to be tackled if we are to reduce the harm it does to our society
Alcohol Concern spokeswoman

Last year the French bought just under 6bn litres of alcohol, down 6% over the five year period, while in Germany sales dropped by 8% to just under 12bn litres.

The UK alcohol market also enjoyed the biggest rise in value, with sales estimated at 38bn - up 15% since 1999.

French spending on alcohol increased by 7% to 28.5bn, while the German market fell by 4% to 32bn.

Wine sales in the UK rose by 23% in the same five-year period, while in Germany there was a slight rise and in France a small drop - although the French still consumed the most wine, almost three times as much as Britons.

Beer sales also fell in Germany and France, while the UK market remained stable.

Men were the biggest drinkers in all three countries, but there were differences in the age ranges, the report said.

In Germany, 20 to 24-year-olds were the biggest drinkers, while in contrast younger French adults were the least likely to drink alcohol.

Drinking was spread evenly across all age groups in the UK.

Drinking habits

Senior consumer analyst Hanna Kivimake said the growing popularity of wine in the UK was down to rising incomes, more "aspirational" drinking habits and the popularity of wine with female drinkers.

"There is a new cosmopolitanism that has helped drive what has been perhaps the most outstanding feature of the UK drinks markets since the 1990s - the rise and rise of wine consumption."

Alcohol Concern said the increase in drinking was harming health.

"As a consequence, we have seen an increase in the amount alcohol-related harm, including a massive increase in the number people developing liver cirrhosis at an earlier age.

"With up to 22,000 deaths linked to alcohol a year, as well as 1.2 million incidents of alcohol-related violence, it is clear that problem drinking has to be tackled if we are to reduce the harm it does to our society."

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