More Consumers Are Drinking Less Alcohol

Trends in healthier nonalcoholic beverages that help customers on the journey toward improved health
Barbara Ruhs, MS, RDN
Owner of MarketRD.com
Barbara Ruhs
Mocktail
As more consumers want to enjoy alcohol without the negatives, they’re opting for frictionless alternatives that make it easy to swap from alcoholic to nonalcoholic.

Dry January continues to gain momentum as sober-curious customers are increasingly focused on health and mental well-being. With conflicting evidence on the benefits and risks of consuming alcohol, many consumers are searching for ways to still enjoy the taste and social aspects of drinking without having to give it up altogether. Let’s explore the trends in healthier nonalcoholic beverages that are helping customers on the journey toward improved health. 

Alcohol and Health

According to Mintel, nearly half of consumers abstain from alcohol to improve physical and mental health. Even in just one month of abstinence, regular drinkers reported better sleep, more energy, weight loss, improved skin appearance, and a reduction in blood pressure and blood sugar levels. The negative impacts that alcohol has on an individual depend on various factors, including genetics, health status, overall hydration, and the duration (timeframe) and dosage (amount) consumed. The danger in consuming alcohol is a result of how the body metabolizes it into acetaldehyde, a chemical that’s toxic to cells and causes damage to DNA. 

Alcoholic beverages have been consumed in cultures around the globe for centuries, but the notion that drinking improves overall health is misguided. As part of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, alcohol is included with recommended daily limits: one drink per day for women and two for men. Confusingly, these recommended daily limits aren’t meant to be averaged over a week, so consuming two or three drinks in a day is considered excessive consumption. Alcohol consumption is a leading preventable cause of death in the United States, and long-term exposure (over a lifespan), as well as excessive intake, increases the risk of more than 200 diseases, including cancer, heart disease, liver and pancreatic disease.  

Nonalcoholic Beverage Innovation

As more consumers want to enjoy alcohol without the negatives, they’re opting for frictionless alternatives that make it easy to swap from alcoholic to nonalcoholic. As a result of decreased alcohol consumption, especially among younger generations, according to Gallup, the global adult beverage industry is shifting to meet demand as consumers are seeking sophisticated mocktails that go beyond a Shirley Temple. The beer, wine and spirits categories have exploded with innovation led by many smaller craft brands that have a passion for creating better-tasting and better-for-you alcohol alternatives. Many of these brands have reinvented how products are made, the ingredients used and how products are marketed successfully to consumers. Among these brand disruptors offering nonalcoholic products are Athletic Brewing (beer), Ritual Zero Proof (spirits), Leitz (wine), Seedlip (herbal botanical spirits) and Ghia (aperitif). 

[Read more: "How to Engage ‘Sober Curious’ Millennials, Gen Zers"]

Today, many of the largest and most recognized global alcohol brands are offering nonalcoholic versions to provide a wider variety of choices and expanding the customer base to audiences that typically avoid the beer, wine and spirits section of the store: athletes, pregnant women, and those suffering from long-term chronic health issues. Industry data indicates robust growth in the nonalcoholic beverage sector now and into the future. According to NIQ, the global nonalcoholic beverage sector between 2021 and 2022 was valued at $395 million, showing year-on-year growth of 20.6%.

Datassential’s “Future of Drink” report, released in October 2023, provides a look at the top trends that retailers need to tune into to win sales in the adult beverage category in 2024 and beyond. While customers seek to avoid the negative impacts of alcohol consumption, at the same time, they’re also seeking beverage alternatives with health benefits: less sugar; made with natural herbal and botanical ingredients; added vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and plant nutrients; and choices that contribute to improved hydration. Success in this segment appears to hinge on better-for-you attributes, exceptional taste and flavor, and innovative marketing to engage and expand the targeted audience. 

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