People are drinking less, but it’s not just millennials

New poll shows adults of all ages are cutting back on alcohol, imbibing in new alternatives, as concerns about health, costs, and hangovers fuel ‘Sober Curious’ trend.

People are consuming less alcohol, and the media is pointing at the younger generation as driving the trend. As a recent article from The Washington Post, titled, “Millennials have sparked a sober revolution, and alcohol brands are starting to notice,” claims, “The millennial- and Gen Z-driven trend is seen as part of a burgeoning wellness movement, a desire to have social gatherings less focused on alcohol (and the next mornings less fuzzed by aftereffects), as well a shift toward abstemiousness more generally.”

However, new polling and analysis from Morning Consult shows that it’s not just the under-40 crowd exploring other options; adults of all ages are cutting back on drinking. According to the poll, nearly half of consumers, regardless of age, have purchased non-alcoholic alternatives, and just over four in 10 of the drinking-age population doesn’t drink, suggesting that the “sober curious” trend—consisting of those who drink less or not at all and broadcast their abstinence with pride as a part of their social media personas—has enough momentum to reshape parts of the alcohol industry.

Among the poll’s other findings:

  • Compared to one year ago, 31% of drinkers said they’re drinking less while most (56%) said they’re drinking about as much. Younger adults, ages 21-29, are not much more likely than other age groups to say they’re drinking less. In fact, given a one- and five-year time frame, young adults are more likely than their older counterparts to say they’re drinking more now.
  • Forty-six percent of the drinking-age population has tasted a non-alcoholic beer or cocktail. That share stays roughly similar no matter the age. Notably, those who regularly drink are more likely to have bought a non-alcoholic drink than teetotalers, suggesting there is money to be made by the growing non-alcoholic beverage industry, and that traditional alcohol brands could suffer if they don’t adapt.
  • Forty-three percent of the drinking-age public doesn’t drink: 28% said they used to drink but don’t anymore, and 15% said they’ve never drunk alcoholic beverages.
  • Desiring a healthier lifestyle (67%), wanting to save money (55%), and losing weight (44%) were the top reasons people have started to drink less.

Citing figures from drinks market analysis firm IWSR, Morning Consult says RTD non-alcoholic products will see the largest growth between 2018 and 2022, at 38.8% CAGR, compared with wine at 17.7%, spirits at 7.1%, and beer at 5.6%.

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