How #soberlife is affecting the drinks industry

Abstinence from alcohol is an increasing trend among young people and celebrities alike, potentially increasing the market for non-alcoholic drinks and products that offer other ‘highs’.

According to the World Health Oranization, the number of alcohol drinkers in the world has decreased by nearly 5% since 2000 while The Beverage Information Group reports that beer sales have slumped for five consecutive years.

In an economic climate where small margins in sales can determine whether or not a business survives, alcohol brands are inevitably paying attention.

Diageo, the world’s second largest distiller and parent of Guinness, Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker, funded the non-alcoholic spirits company Seedlip.

Online searches for the word ‘mocktail’ have increased significantly while in US cities such as New York and Los Angeles it is assumed that restaurants will offer a separate non-alcoholic drinks list.

Consumers will, however, be expected to pay similar prices for a ‘mocktail’ as they would for a cocktail, despite the omittance of alcohol, perhaps due to the perishable nature of the ingredients.

An early advocate of non-alcoholic options, Sharelle Klaus founded DRY in 2005 after four pregnancies left her feeling excluded at social occasions.

Non-alcoholic beer has seen a re-awakening, from craft beers to Heineken, which in January launched non-alcoholic malt beverage o.o, however non-alcoholic beer still accounts for just 5% of the market.

Somewhere between beer and a sports drink, Jeff Stevens of Wellbeing Brewing is planning to launch a Victory Citrus Wheat with natural electrolytes while Distill Ventures, an investment company focused on entrepreneurs creating drinks brands, have a portfolio that showcases non-alcoholic options with a quarter of their 15 founder-led drinks brands fitting this category.

So why are so many people turning away from alcohol?  Whether it’s striving for the celebrity lifestyle or avoiding a hangover, the reasons to not drink certainly seem to be increasing.

Social media, available to everyone with access to the WWW, has given people the potential to view and attempt to emulate every aspect of celebrities’s day to day lives. The power of this tool has been proven by the recent laws which stipulate that celebrities must now make perfectly clear when they are advertising a product on one of these platforms.

Bradley Cooper, Anne Hathaway, and Robert Downey Jr. are among a plethora of celebrities known for taking the teetotal route. So while buying a Lamborghini or taking fifteen holidays a year to the Seychelles may not be an option for the average person, copying lifestyle choices – such as giving up alcohol – is instantly achievable. 

This choice in ‘lifesyle’ can also be linked to the increase in veganism, with the number of vegans in America quadrupling between 2014 and 2018, according to data published by The Economist.

Speaking to db at a recent low-ABV dinner hosted by Franklin & Sons, bar tender and mixologist Rich Woods said that he couldn’t say whether the demand was “driven” by the increase in vegan and vegetarianism but that he had noticed “a definite move towards considering what we imbibe”.

Finally, with the legalisation and increase of cannabis infused drinks, consumers are being offered the potential to experience other natural ‘highs’ without the hangover.

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