SOCIETY: Popularity of spirits drains away

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Sales of mineral water are sparkling, but spirits are drooping, according to a survey published today. As many as 63 per cent of hotels and restaurants reported increases in mineral water purchases last year. But the overall picture for spirits revealed a "steady, slow decline", said the Hotel and Restaurant magazine 1997 Drinks Market Report.

Based on returns from hotels and restaurants, the survey, conducted by NOP, revealed that after mineral water, bottled beer was the biggest growth area in 1996. South African wine was thought likely to show the biggest increase in sales among wines this year, although demand for wines from other "New World" producers - such as Australia, Chile and New Zealand is also tipped to grow steadily, at the expense of European vineyards.