As New Year’s resolutions are top of mind once again, many of us will give up alcohol for the month. But consumers are looking for more than a "Dry January"—they're increasingly turning to non-alcoholic alternatives that still quench their thirst for traditional drinking experiences.
It sounds contradictory, but non-alcoholic conversations about alcohol are on the rise in social media. That means consumers aren't just sipping soft stuff like sparkling water and soda, they're interested in non-alcoholic versions of beverages that traditionally contain alcohol.
This shift impacts all alcohol types (beer, wine, and spirits), suggesting that alcohol companies should take serious note of both evolving consumer desires and the non-alcoholic products already grabbing market share.
non-alcoholic interest on the rise
Global consumers explicitly mention ‘non-alcoholic’ 81% more often than just one year ago. This increase also represents a 50% growth in share of social conversations about alcohol over the same time period, indicating the desire for non-alcoholic alternatives is more than a fad.
Looking at global conversations about alcohol, ‘non-alcoholic’ is on the rise.
Another positive sign for this trend is one-month user retention (consumers posting about non-alcoholic one month that also posted about it the previous month) which has remained steady, with loyalty remaining on par with growth. This means consumers aren't just dry in January; their resolution regarding non-alcoholic beverages is a lasting one.
Much of this can be attributed to the increased consumer desire to live a healthier style. Common pitfalls associated with drinking, such as hangovers and liver disease, appear regularly alongside consumer discussions of alcohol and may be helping to drive non-alcoholic conversations.
And it’s not just about completely kicking the booze. Topics associated with binge drinking are also on the decline. Looking at its share of global alcohol conversations, ‘drunk’ is down 22% YOY, but even more colloquial topics like ‘hangover’ (-22%), ‘turn up’ (-23%), and ‘lit’ (-11%) have also seen large drops in global alcohol conversation share.
Binge drinking topics' share of global alcohol conversations.
Consumers aren’t all talk, though. We’ve found a high correlation between alcohol consumption (purchases) and social conversations about alcohol, so this data suggests that if consumers aren’t avoiding alcohol altogether, many are at a minimum drinking less.
MODERATION: THE RAGE FOR ALL AGES
The desire for non-alcoholic beverages isn’t just for the older consumer looking to avoid a rough morning after. As you can see below, 17% of non-alcoholic conversations come from consumers aged 35-44:
Conversations about non-alcoholic beverages resonate with consumers young and old.
Because social media skews towards a younger audience, this volume contribution is about what we’d expect from each cohort. But if we control for this by looking at percentile—which compares how much these age groups actually talk about this topic (non-alcoholic) to how much they talk about any other alcohol-related topic—we see that non-alcoholic is in the 52nd percentile for the 35- to 44-year-old demographic, making it middle-of-the-road for this age group.
Looking more broadly, while the raw percentage breakdown of non-alcoholic conversations varies significantly by age, the normalized percentiles are relatively similar and don’t swing far from the average for any age group, indicating that this consumption pattern resonates with consumers young and old.
NON-ALCOHOLIC IS EVERYWHERE
Increased interest doesn’t discriminate by drink selection, either. Non-alcoholic has increased its global share of beer conversations by 45%, wine by 55%, and spirits by a whopping 63%! It’s becoming clear consumers still prefer familiar beverages, though without the alcoholic punch.
Spirits are most impacted by non-alcoholic conversations. As non-alcoholic beer and wine options increase, mentions of ‘non-alcoholic’ alongside these product types is likely to increase as well.
In particular, mocktail mentions are up 42%, suggesting that consumers are looking for ways to cut down on alcohol without sacrificing social experience. These drinkers won’t settle for Shirley Temples, though. The increasing popularity of topics like ‘mixology’ and ‘craft’ within non-alcoholic conversations suggests that consumers want quality concoctions without the buzz.
Some major alcohol producers are already leading the way in this movement. For example, Seedlip, a premium spirits brand backed by Diageo’s Distill Ventures, experienced a 296% year-over-year rise in global social volume, bringing its conversation volume in line with that of Evan Williams (a top ten highest selling whiskey brand in the U.S.) and Casamigos (a tequila brand purchased for $1 billion by Diageo last year). The brand is not only quickly growing in popularity but is gaining a dedicated consumer following.
Seedlip’s strong user retention suggests this non-alcoholic brand has loyal fans.
But spirits aren’t the only product type seeing a change. Brands leading the charge in the always-trendy craft beer space include Athletic Brewing, from Stamford, CT, and Nirvana Beer Co, from London. Likewise, we’ve seen consumers turning to hard seltzer and hard kombucha, suggesting that alcohol isn’t entirely on the outs with health-oriented drinkers.
As interest in healthier lifestyles continues to grow, expect consumers to look for new ways to tend to their well-being and their social lives. Switching from traditionally boozy beverages to non-alcoholic alternatives is quickly on the rise, while consumers of all ages tend to the short- and long-term concerns associated with alcohol.
With growing investment and influential players in the space, alcohol companies are giving consumers additional high-quality options, regardless of their “poison.” If those resolutions actually stick, that’s a winning proposition all around.