There is some uncertainty about exactly how many alcoholics there are in Hungary. The figure of 380,000 provided by the Hungarian Central Statistics Office is severely underestimated. Domestic experts report more than double or even triple of this figure. A few years ago, WHO has estimated the number of alcoholics in Hungary to be over 900,000. More than one-third of adult men in Hungary consume alcohol in a harmful way – Index.hu reports.
It is a serious nationwide problem. Still, drinking is common, and it seems to be an Eastern European ‘virtue’ to get drunk. It seems that our culture is more forgiving to people drinking 3-4 glasses of their own wine every day. This can contribute to the fact that 90% of addicts never recognise their alcohol problem.
According to the WHO, men on average drink about three times as much as women. Although recent qualitative research shows that Hungarian women drink more and more, especially the youngest and over the 60s, are at risk.
But a little alcohol cannot hurt, right?
There is no convincing evidence. Substantially more thorough research would be needed to determine whether alcohol has any positive effects in small quantities. The European Society of Cardiologists and the American Heart Association have found no evidence that alcohol can be healthy. Although if someone is healthy and eats appropriately, small amounts of alcohol do not harm.
Where does the data come from?
Some surveys quantify data that people admit they consume, but it is mostly not that reliable. For us, the most reliable way to get a glimpse of how much Hungarians drink, we can see, for example, how much Hungarians buy in stores. It is far from a complete measuring, but it will undoubtedly mean data of realised purchases. To do this, Nielsen Market Research provided Index.hu with regional data from June 2017 to June 2019.
How much and what do Hungarians drink?
By far, most of the alcohol purchased in stores is consumed in the form of beer. Second place goes to vodka and bitters, followed by pálinka. By June 2019, we bought 1.5% more pure alcohol than the previous 12 months. In value, however, we spent almost 9% more on alcoholic beverages, which is significant.
Alcohol sold by region
Per capita sales in pure alcohol: average 2.47 litres.
People in Southwest Hungary seem to purchase the most alcohol per capita. This means Zala, Somogy, Tolna and Baranya counties. Many would have guessed that the middle region, Budapest and Pest counties would be the winners, but the tables have turned.
Beer and cider
Average 35.2 litres of beer sold per capita.
Average 0.46 litres of cider sold per capita.
We have been drinking more than 5 Million litres more beer this summer than in the previous year. More than half of the beer purchased are sold in major discount stores, supermarkets and hypermarkets and overall sales have also increased here.
National beer consumption increased by an average of 1.7 litres which means an increase of 1.5% compared to the previous year. In addition to traditional beers, sales of flavoured, wheat and corn beers have also increased. Non-alcoholic beer sales have also risen, but they account for only about 7% of all beer sold.
If you are a beer enthusiast, read this guide on the best Hungarian beers on tap.
Cider is becoming more and more popular in Hungary. 14% more have been sold than previously. They are on average more expensive and sweeter than beers. For every hundred cans of beer sold, only one cider is purchased.
Average 0.48 litres sold per capita.
What is interesting about bitters is that we drank roughly the same amount or less in every region, except in Southern Hungary. Our taste changed considering package size, as we buy more and more small (less than 0.2 litres) bottles of bitter. The sales of this package size have increased by 9%, accounting for almost one-fifth of the entire segment.
Average 0.48 litres sold per capita.
Hungarians bought 6% more vodka than last year. We buy less and less vodka in small stores. Unflavoured vodka is better sold than sweeter, fruity flavours, but Hungarians bought more of both. However, herbal vodkas were not so popular. In terms of the price range, it has also changed. 20% more of cheaper, store-brand vodkas were sold.
Average 0.26 litres sold per capita.
There was a serious drop in the pálinka trade, according to the figures of Nielsen. They do not buy as much pálinka in Budapest. Interestingly, Budapest and Pest counties consumed most of all other types of alcohol, but pálinka somehow lost its popularity in the region.
Average 0.2 litres sold per capita.
Cheap whiskeys are gaining popularity. Whiskeys are also showing signs of growth, but this is mainly due to the growing demand for more affordable products. While branded products stagnated in volume, store-brand whiskeys showed an 11% increase.
We do not know much about wine sales
We can only rely on a 2017 survey-based market research, and everyone knows that self-reporting promises less accurate results than measuring actual consumption.
Wine is mostly consumed at home or friends’, and about one-fifth of consumers account for three-quarters of the total consumption. According to this, one-third of the population does not drink wine at all. Sweet and semi-sweet wines are the most popular and half of the wine purchases are for everyday consumption. It is also interesting that wine was seen as an “everyday drink” and respondents thought that drinking wine had nothing to do with alcoholism, only if someone regularly drinks cheap wine.
The Czech and Slovak Republic
If you look at the alcohol consumption patterns of our two competitors in the region, Czech Republic and Slovakia, it is an excellent base for comparisons for the consumption of the above-mentioned alcoholic beverages. The Czechs spend significantly more on almost all types of alcoholic drinks. An average Czech citizen spends more only on beer than a Hungarian on all types of alcohol we mentioned combined. The Slovaks also buy more of these drinks, but they only consume fewer bitters.
Retail sales per capita in HUF:
Czech Republic: 36 000 Ft (~ 109 €)
Slovakia: 27 500 Ft (~ 83 €)
Hungary: 22 500 Ft (~ 68 €)
According to WHO, both countries drink about the same amount or more per capita as Hungary. This can mean many things, for example, that Hungarians can hide real numbers much more efficiently, or we drink a lot more at restaurants or homemade spirits. It is also possible that in these countries more people drink relatively regularly, but only small quantities.