Alcoholic Beverage Trends Undergo Culture Shift

Consumers cite a variety of reasons to turn down alcohol in favor of mocktails and other alternatives.
Angela Hanson
Multi-colored cocktails on a bartop

NEW YORK — For some Americans, going alcohol-free has grown beyond a decision and become a lifestyle and set of values, according to NCSolutions, which provides purchase insights to brands to help them target, optimize, measure and enable sales-based outcomes.

The sober curious movement, in which consumers drink less or no alcohol, is boosting the popularity of this movement, leading to the growth of mocktails, alcohol-free beer, wine, spirits, and THC or cannabis-infused drinks. 

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Data from a recent NCSolutions survey shows that more Americans are drinking less and trying out nonalcoholic beverage options in the year to come, with 41% planning to drink less alcohol in 2024 — down 7 points from 2023.

Younger generations are more likely to drink less, with 61% of Generation Z reporting plans to drink less in 2024 (up from 40% last year) and 49% of millennials saying the same.

Gen Z is also perceived as spearheading the sober curious trend, with members of this cohort citing multiple key reasons to cut back, like:

  • Saving money
  • Improving physical health
  • Making a lifestyle change 
  • Improving mental health
  • Losing weight

Members of this generation say they are more likely to drink a new drink if it is marketed as aligning with the sober curious lifestyle. Social media is the top advertising channel through which they gear about new nonalcoholic beverages (listed by 45%), followed by internet searches (16%) and streaming TV (15%).

While 84% of Americans feel that drinking remains a big part of the country's culture, this is down 9 points from 2023, while the mindful drinking trend — when people are more considerate of how often and how long they are drinking, as well as of how many drinks they are having — seems to be growing, with 34% reportedly identifying as mindful drinkers.

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Mocktails are likely to be a major trend in 2024 and are the top nonalcoholic drink Americans say they want to try. Consumers report being drawn to mocktails and THC- or CBD-infused drinks because they want to see what they tastes like; consider them a healthier alternative to alcohol; and like the look of them.

Top reasons why 28% of Americans ages 21 and older did not drink any alcohol at all in 2023 include disliking the taste, addiction concerns, the ability to save money, improved physical health and simply not wanting to.

On average, Americans are having three drinks per week, down from four per week in 2023, with millennials showing a particular likelihood to cut back.

Participation on Dry January prompts a notable decline in alcohol purchases, with sales dropping 24% from December 2022 to January 2023. This year, 22% of Americans took part in the alcohol-free challenge, up 10 points from last year. Conversely, March, May and December 2023 were the most popular months to buy alcohol.

The full report from NCSolutions available here.

NCSolutions is headquartered in New York.

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