There is a growing minority who are regularly choosing not to drink alcohol even when others around them are drinking it. A group we're calling Lifestyle Abstainers (LAs).
At Morar HPI we surveyed 2,000 adults that found more than half (57%) had drunk alcohol in the past week, the lowest figure since 2005, while teetotalism had risen to more than one-quarter (27%) of 16 to 24-year-olds. A movement we label as 'positive abstinence', with members across a broad age range – not just millennials – who were finding other things to do. LAs were rejecting situations such as drunkenness that could be exposed via photos posted on social media.
LAs were defined by three positive reasons for rejecting alcohol – they prefer to stay in control (33%), health (31%), and not liking the taste (19%). Almost two-thirds (64%) of LAs saw non-alcoholic drinks as part of a healthier lifestyle, with 39% feeling great when choosing non-alcoholic drinks. The net trend was a move towards it becoming more socially acceptable to not drink alcohol, as agreed by almost three-quarters (71%) of LAs. This is the kingpin for all this. There’s less stigma attached to not drinking alcohol when you’re out but others around you are.
Looking at what LAs are drinking in the on-trade, almost two-thirds (63%) drink fizzy soda, despite the health trend, followed by juice (43%), paid-for water (31%) and tap water (31%). Only 6% chose non-alcoholic beer with even lower figures for non-alcoholic cider (4%), wine (2%) and spirits (2%). There is a lack of consumer awareness of the category, with non-alcoholic brands creating a lot of noise but little traction.
The survey revealed opportunities for operators as almost two-fifths (38%) of respondents agreed non-alcoholic beer would become more popular in restaurants, with 29% saying its popularity would rise in pubs. However, more than two-fifths (44%) said they were unable to find non-alcoholic drinks in the on-trade. Other countries had stolen a march on the UK regarding non-alcoholic sales, with Germany topping the list with a 5.9% share of total beer sales, compared with 3.9% in Spain, 3.2% in the Netherlands and only 0.4% in the UK. We are languishing in the UK – but I expect us to catch up. At the moment it would appear that UK operators are slow off the mark to consider non-alcoholic sales opportunities. Whilst we have different relationship with alcohol, those willing to take learnings from our European counterparts could reap rewards in the short term future.
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