Australians are abandoning the traditional frothy for a big night on cider, with one-in-five people choosing the fermented drink as their beverage of choice, new research shows.
Cider drinkers are typically heavier drinkers than non-cider drinking colleagues and are university educated females, research by VicHealth shows.
Among cider drinkers aged under 30 years, 80 per cent drank five or more standard drinks in a single session at least once a year, compared with 67 per cent of non-cider drinkers.
One-in-three cider drinkers consumed more than 11 standard drinks in a single session, compared with 24 per cent of non-cider drinkers, the research shows.
But the majority of cider drinkers are also health conscious and would buy a low-alcohol option if one were available.
While cider only constitutes four per cent of the alcohol market, cider sales are growing fast, increasing by 30 per cent in 2011.
Sales of some cider brands increased by 300 per cent in 2012, with the drink now offered on tap at most licensed venues in Victoria.
Full-strength beer sales have declined by 13 per cent over the last decade.
VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said health agencies are keeping a close eye on the cider phenomenon, with study showing young people are drinking it to excess.
"The most popular types of ciders, pear and apple, are currently subject to the Wine Equalisation Tax, which means there's little incentive for producers to make a low-alcohol option," she said.
"If all ciders were subject to a volumetric tax, like beer is, then we'd potentially see lower alcohol varieties on the market. The vast majority of cider lovers we surveyed say they would drink a low-alcohol option, but unfortunately, there is no light version widely available."
Ms Rechter said the survey showed there was a market for low-alcohol cider and it may reduce the incidence of heavy drinking.