Have you gone Sober for October? Are you planning a Dry January? Is your New Year's resolution to drink less? If so, by cutting down your intake, or even giving up alcohol altogether, you're part of a growing trend. So, is this a sign of things to come? Is alcohol on the way out?
Goodbye boozed-up Britain?
The British love of booze is well known. Peak alcohol consumption in the U.K. was reached in the 1990's and early millennium. But, since then, alcohol consumption amongst successive younger generations has declined. In a recent report published by University College London in 2018, nearly a third of 16 to 24 year olds surveyed said that they didn't drink alcohol at all. This is almost double the number who said they didn't drink just a decade earlier.
Similar studies in America, Australia and some European nations have identified the same trend. There is now a growing divide across the generations, with middle aged and older drinkers still often drinking more than they should. However, it's clear that a new trend for lower consumption or abstinence is emerging.
Why are people drinking less?
There are the traditional reasons not to drink that have always been there. Whether you are the designated driver, pregnant, dealing with addiction or don't drink for religious reasons, there have always been plenty of people who stay sober. Tougher punishments for drink driving and the push to show an ID card for under 25s buying alcohol, have made it more difficult to drink, especially when young. Other legislative changes, like minimum pricing for alcohol in Scotland, are also making alcohol less attractive.
But there is also a shift in attitudes too. Peer pressure used to be a factor in encouraging people to drink. However, a survey in 2017 by Eventbrite showed that younger people see drinking as something old people do, with 40 percent having a negative view of someone who is drunk. A greater awareness of our own wellbeing and the damage that alcohol can do has led to people seeking lower calorie and healthier alternatives. The young in particular are less likely to spend money on booze, preferring to pay for experiences or travel instead.
The grown-up non-alcoholic alternatives
Not drinking on a night out used to mean that you were limited to sweet, sugary drinks that were high in calories, or sticking with water. Now, however, there is so much more choice available to abstainers. From new drink varieties like mocktails, to straight substitutes like alcohol-free wines, beers and spirits, not drinking is much more fun than it used to be.
While substitute drinks had a reputation for having a poor taste, new entrants into the market have challenged established brands to up their game and compete on the quality of the drink, as well as the lack of alcohol. With distillation and brewing methods evolving, alcohol substitute drinks now often taste as good, or even better than, their alcoholic counterparts.
For Roddy Nicoll, founder of Virtuous Spirits, the focus when creating their alcohol-free gin, Chastity, was all about getting the taste right.
‘I'm a gin drinker and drink it for the taste of gin rather than the alcohol content,’ he said.
‘We wanted our alcohol-free gins to be as good or better than any alcohol-based drink. So our distillation process focuses on creating the best flavour profiles using the highest-quality, natural ingredients.’
Then, there are the venue pioneers. 'Dry' bars can now be found across the U.K. While still in the minority, they provide places to socialise without alcohol. They're also often focussed on either socially responsible causes, or on healthy lifestyle choices like vegetarianism or veganism. Through their efforts, grown-up alternatives to alcoholic drinks are becoming more interesting, attractive and mainstream.
Not drinking is no longer boring
It all adds up to show that our drinking culture is changing. It's not that we aren't socialising anymore. We are. It's just that, for a whole host of reasons, we're less likely to drink a lot of alcohol when we do. That's a challenge for both traditional drinks manufacturers and venues like pubs and restaurants. It's also an opportunity for new entrants to the market bringing fresh ideas. So, it's a challenge that is beginning to be met. For those of us who abstain, there's now a lot more choice and a much higher quality of drink available to enjoy.
This article was brought to you by Virtuous Spirits, makers of small-batch, alcohol-free Chastity Gin. You can find Chastity Gin online via Ocado, in selected Tanners Wine Merchants stores or online at www.virtuousspirits.co.uk.