Last year saw total retail sales value of beverages decline for the first time since 2006, according to Nielsen’s 2011 Wider Beverage Report, released this week, and total beverage volume sales are also declining.

A key reason for this is packaged beer. As the largest beverage segment, it accounts for nearly one in every four dollars spent in the category. “This is the first time we’ve seen the segment decline in over four years,” says Liz Watkinson, director for Nielsen’s Liquor Services Group, “The traditional Low Carb and Premium beer growth engines no longer appear to be fuelling the category.”

In dollar terms, alcohol is by far the highest earner, attracting 60 percent of beverage dollars spent by Australians, followed not-so-closely by carbonated drinks (12%).

By volume, however, tea and coffee lead as Australia’s most consumed beverage, making up over a third of total volume. Alcohol is the next most consumed, at 19 percent volume.

The rise of house brands continues, outpacing branded beverage growth. In particular bottled wine, cask wine and chilled white milk were segments where private label brands not only grew faster than their branded competitors but also added more value to the segment.