'Dry January' may be over for another year, but the concept continues to divide opinion. While some will be feeling proud of their achievement, others will have succumbed to the odd cheeky pint. The rest will just be relieved to have their mates back in the pub.
This temporary temperance is part of a wider and growing trend for moderation, especially among younger, Millennial drinkers, who are increasingly health-conscious and looking for 'clean' eating and drinking choices that fit into a more balanced lifestyle. This age of consumer is just as likely to be found in a 7am Ravercise class, as they are to sit at the bar after work.
While one wouldn't necessarily think this trend towards moderation would be something the beer industry celebrates, some brewers do. We are committed to ensuring 20% of global beer volumes are made up of no-alcohol or low-alcohol beer by 2025. This is part of our Global Smart Drinking Goals, a commitment to a long-term and sustainable reduction in harmful drinking across the world.
Beyond our focus on responsible drinking, we're able to make this ambitious goal precisely because consumer tastes are changing and increasingly people are looking for lower alcohol or alcohol-free beverages. In the UK, the low- and no-alcohol beer category has grown over the past year by 19.5%, according to IRI data from November. This is in line with consumer trends for moderation and achieving a balanced lifestyle. As further proof of this, a study by Canvas8 last year found that one in five UK adults are now teetotal and, perhaps even more surprisingly, the proportion of teetotal 16- to 24-year-olds increased between 2005 and 2013 by more than 40%.
However, it would be overly simplistic to say the growth of the low-alcohol and no-alcohol beer category is being driven solely by teetotalers, or even Dry January-ers. Alongside the moderation trend, our insights show a rise in new occasions for these types of drinks – the mid-week lunch where the consumer may want a beer but not want to interrupt the afternoon meetings or evening gym sessions; or even just the quiet night at home.
Our own research shows that nearly a third of UK consumers have now tried alcohol-free beer: Indeed, Millennials are enjoying the stuff at least once a week.
This is a significant and positive shift in behaviour and if we want to encourage a responsible drinking culture, the industry must cater for this new group of consumers.
As British adults become savvier about drinking and more discerning with their options, the industry should be well-placed to give them choices for every occasion. For each person taking part in Dry January and heading to the pub with their friends, they need choices beyond water or sugary soft drinks.
So, let's raise an alcohol-free beer to choice, and to change. And, not just in January.