I’ll Drink to That? Something’s Going On With Alcohol

Since the early 2000’s, Americans’ consumption of alcohol has consistently grown, but that trend may be changing. Looking ahead to 2024, there are signs that alcohol may be in slow decline. Alcohol sales are expected to drop 1% each year from 2024-2030, according to industry experts.

The sober curious movement certainly plays a role. And GenZ embraces the concept — 70% of those in their 20s mention they participated in Dry January this year, which was up 42% from last year. They also are challenging the belief that a drink or two a day is beneficial to your health.

In fact, of the alcohol conversations across forums, blogs, and message boards, 39% of the conversation is connected to health and diet. These are common reasons for participating in Dry January as well as considering drinking less alcohol. The result of participation may not result in total abstinence, but perhaps a reduction of drinking.

The alcohol that seems most affected is beer. Beer volume has fallen to its lowest level since 1999. However, according to the Small and Independent Craft Brewers Association, the small and independent market was up 13% in volume (compared to total beer volume dropping by 3%). Typically, off-premise distribution is lower for these groups, suggesting that these types of beers are part of a larger on-premise experience. In addition, non-alcoholic beer has seen a sharp increase in volume. This segment of beer has seen innovation and an increase in the number of brands, further suggesting that it isn’t beer that people are avoiding, but traditional alcohol.

I had a couple glasses of wine last night with some family after a lovely dry January, it made me rethink the amount of drinking

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities for alcohol brands. It isn’t that younger generations, like GenZ, are abstaining from alcohol completely, but they are choosing differently. There are new factors at play that brands will have to take advantage of to gain the attention of these drinkers. For instance, GenZ has an affinity towards “retro” things (think flip phones, digital cameras), so cocktails and mocktails are of more interest to them. Discussions of mocktails on X (Twitter) shot up in January, with 54% of the conversation by GenZ or younger Millennials.

It’s easy to look at a few data points to find a trend and stop there. People tend to look for simple solutions to complex questions. But if we keep peeling back the onion, there are additional areas that help explain the decrease in alcohol consumption. For instance, one factor that may be affecting beer is weight loss drugs like Ozempic. According to CivicScience, the potential impact of Ozempic and GLP-1s on booze is on the rise.

Also, what about cannabis? It is now legal in 26 states and poses formidable competition to the alcohol category. And how does GenZ feel about it? 69% prefer marijuana to alcohol according to a recent survey by New Frontier Data. Finally, what about the general current expense of going out? Perhaps one of the reasons GenZ isn’t drinking as much alcohol is they simply can’t afford it like past generations. Is GenZ simply picking more experiential occasions to drink alcohol and want drinks that match the experience?

While this could be a blip on the radar for alcohol volume, it could also be part of a larger sustainable trend. Either way, it is something we’ll be keeping an eye on, and exploring in our future narrative work.

I have been having fun with mocktails and have enjoyed some NA beers, it’s fun to try some new things.


  • Joy Boggio

    Joy has spent a lifetime of wondering if there is a different way. A seasoned research professional, she discovered the “joy” of social listening anthropology and was energized to find ways to help brands tap into consumer behavior. Long-time friends, Joy and Quester president Tim Hoskins would eventually meet up at the bar during conferences to plan and plot where research could go next. A decade later, the time was right for them to start putting these theories into action.

    Social Narratives is not only a natural extension for Quester but also for Joy’s talent of making connections, seeing patterns, and translating what it can mean to others.

    Joy’s love of people starts with her family which includes two married kiddos, three furry grandbabies, and one human grandson as well as a supportive husband. She loves her Peloton (early adopter baby!), her weights, and all things puzzles including the New York Times puns and anagrams which will break your brain.

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