Gen-Z and the sober curious future of drinking

Date: August 21, 2023

Category: Food & Drinks

Anywhere anyone looks, there is a “healthy” or “eco” option. In any grocery store, pharmacy, brand’s social media, or product tags, there is specific information dedicated to how “well” something is. The surge of health-centered products becomes undeniable. At first glance, one might assume these products cater primarily to older generations, as age often accompanies an increased focus on health. Yet, a closer look reveals a striking trend: a growing health-conscious movement among the younger generation, who are now reshaping every industry they consume, including beverages and alcoholic drinks. 

The numbers speak volumes about this newfound emphasis on wellness, and it’s a path that started before them. A 2018 study from the International Food Information Council shows that among millennials, 80% prioritize health and wellness when making dietary decisions, a considerable difference from the 64% of baby boomers. This focus encompasses not only physical health but also extends to emotional and social well-being, all areas that Gen-Z now consider in every action they do.

A report by the American Psychiatric Association underscores Generation Z’s proclivity for seeking therapeutic interventions: 37% of Gen Z individuals have engaged in treatment or therapy, surpassing figures for Millennials (35%), Gen X (26%), Baby Boomers (22%), and the Silent Generation (15%).

This shift finds its roots in the core of the Generation Z – a deep commitment to holistic well-being. Every action they take, every purchase they make, it’s oriented towards making their life a better one.  When it comes to alcohol, they are now “sober curious”, but what does this mean, for them and for the alcoholic industry, and what role plays the influencers and content creators?

What it is to be sober curious

Within this evolving context, the drinking habits have changed, mirroring Gen Z’s health-oriented mindset. An expanding category of non-alcoholic beverages reflects heightened demand and innovative offerings, with projections indicating a 25% growth between 2022 and 2026, rooted in moderation rather than outright abstention.

Solène Marchand, head of marketing for Pernod Ricard’s non-alcoholic products, notes that “71% of consumers of these novel non-alcoholic spirits also consume alcoholic spirits.” Here is where the term “sober curious” is born. 

86% of Gen Z consumers accord equal importance to mental health and physical health in their considerations surrounding alcohol consumption.

For Gen Z, being “sober curious” encapsulates a heightened awareness of the impact of alcohol on well-being, both physically and mentally. This generation places a premium on holistic health, valuing mental clarity, emotional equilibrium, and physical vitality. The term “sober curious” doesn’t necessarily imply complete abstinence from alcohol, but reflects a conscious decision to question and moderate drinking habits.

This shift in behavior reverberates across industries, prompting businesses to take note and adapt: from alcohol-free spirits to zero-proof cocktails, the market is responding to this emerging trend by offering products that cater to the “sober curious” demographic; this impacts from new businesses to communication strategies, as highlighted in Samy Alliance’s study about Ready To Drinks beverages forecast in 7 leader markets.

The role of influencers in the “sober curious” era

Influencers are key in this matter, since they act as relatable role models, sharing their personal journeys of navigating social scenarios while prioritizing well-being. By openly discussing their “sober curious” choices, influencers demystify the concept, creating a safe space for young adults to explore their own preferences without societal pressures. Also, there has been a huge rise of “wellness” influencers that speak on why a certain lifestyle is the one to follow, and the audiences react to that.

The presence of influencers normalizes opting for non-alcoholic alternatives, validating Gen Z’s decision to choose moderation or abstention. Whether they’re reviewing alcohol-free spirits, sharing zero-proof cocktail recipes, or recounting their experiences at alcohol-free events, influencers offer tangible examples of how to infuse the “sober curious” mindset into daily life.

Influencers amplify the conversation surrounding responsible drinking and mental health, especially in an era where they are all trying to have more emotional responsibility with the content they consume and the products they purchase . They engage in candid dialogues about the holistic benefits of embracing a mindful approach, aligning with Gen Z’s emphasis on mental clarity and emotional well-being. This not only resonates with their audience but also prompts industry stakeholders to reevaluate their offerings.

Peering into the future, projections spotlight Generation Z’s impending ascendancy. By 2030, they are poised to constitute a substantial 30% of the workforce, wielding a cumulative income estimated at $2 trillion. This imminent prominence positions them as a force of unparalleled influence, set to reshape all industries’ landscapes to harmonize with their preferences and needs; even if the low-alcohol beverages face challenges related to prizes, Gen-Z’s purchase power is increasing and they are willing to pay more for products that match better their lifestyle.

As the alcoholic industry has been put in danger because of the so feared phrase “Gen-Z don’t drink”, the truth is that they actually do, but just do it differently. That’s why adapting to them and their sober curious lifestyle is the best way to be in their life as a good, healthy and empathic option. To do this, brands must understand that all the content they’re adoring from influencers and content creators is orientated to well-being, personal growth and comfort.

These influencers dedicate themselves and their platforms to promote healthy lifestyle and personal care, so creating new products cannot focus only on saying that the drink is appealing, but to give proper options that match all the Z needs: low-alcohol, low or sugar free, apt for celiacs, eco-friendly, natural flavours… the list is long, but so are the relationships that can be built if things are made right for them. 

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