Teetotalism – Why Generation Z is choosing good, clean fun

Posted by Flux on 

18 December 2017

What’s trending now?

Generation Z is rejecting alcoholic beverages in favour of clean living alternatives.

A study by researchers at San Diego State University and Bryn Mawr College found that Generation Z is growing up slower and more responsible than previous generations. Furthermore, the UK’s Office for National Statistics revealed that there has been a “significant” fall in alcohol consumption amongst the 16-24 age group over the last ten years. The percentage of young people who do not drink any alcohol at all has risen by 32%. Not only is Generation Z drinking less than their parents generation did as teenagers, they are drinking less alcohol than their parents are drinking today. In the UK, a forty year old is more likely to commit a drunk driving violation than an 18 year old.

Instead of hanging out at bars or night clubs, Generation Z can be found attending juice crawls and silent discos – or even staying in and playing marathon board-game sessions with friends at home.

In many ways, Generation Z is pushing back at the generations who have come before them by rebelling against rebellion.

The research company Mintel backs up these findings through its recent research into no and low-alcohol beers. Mintel’s research shows that the vast majority of young people do not see or experience any stigma or negative peer pressure with regards to drinking no, or low alcohol, beverages when out with friends. Alcohol is simply not as important to social lives as it was in the past.

Why is it important?

So why is Generation Z rejecting alcohol?

The answer lies in the convergence of a number of the key consumer trends we have been tracking at Flux Trends.

One reason young people are drinking less is because of the rising costs of alcoholic beverages. Increased sin taxes combined with declining real wages putting pressure on middle-class lifestyles mean regular alcohol consumption is simply too expensive.

Another key reason is the growing health and wellness movement. Young people are much more concerned with their health, and aware of how their food and beverage choices affect their long-term wellness, than previous generations were. A survey of 16-24 year olds conducted by the think-tank, Demos, last year revealed that “health” was the most common reason for young people drinking less.

Yet another reason why youth alcohol consumption is declining can be attributed to the rise of Generation M , and the emergence of the conscious, religious Muslim consumer. Religious and cultural reasons were also listed by Mintel as reasons for abstaining from alcohol.

What’s the butterfly effect?

In the near term, the teetotaler trend will lead to a boom in low and no-alcohol beverages and in an increase in alcohol-free party venues and events.

In the long term, this trend will evolve into the demise of alcohol as we know it. New scientific discoveries mean that soon it will be possible to enjoy the positive, happy-feeling effects of alcohol – without the hangover, unnecessary calories, liver damage and related health risks.

The pioneers

Sober beverages and brands

Professor David Nutt of London’s Imperial College is pioneering a new type of synthetic alcohol called alcosynth. Alcosynth is designed to mimic the positive social effects of alcohol without the negative physical effects. According to Professor Nutt, alcosynth could completely replace conventional alcohol by 2050.


The Duchess , the world’s first alcohol-free, sugar-free, hangover-free gin and tonic (sold in most-attractive, artisanal-style packaging, of course) launched in South Africa 2016 and became an immediate success, both on Instagram and in retail stores across the country.

Alcohol Free Wine runs an e-commerce store that sources and sells a variety of teetotaller-friendly faux-wines – including a R910 bottle of Merlot grape juice.

Seedilp  is a company that produces alcohol-free “spirits” that allow bar-tenders to create more interesting virgin cocktails and solve the problem of “solve the problem of what to drink when you’re not drinking.”

Sober places and parties

DRY Bar in Scotland (founded by former South African whisky-distiller, Jamie Walker) is an alcohol-free pub where “you don’t have to drink to have a good time”.

Redemption is another alcohol-free, yet still grown-up and entertaining cocktail bar which launched in London. The bar’s slogan is “spoil yourself without spoiling yourself”. As the owner, Catherine Salary says: “It’s not alcohol creating that vibe, it’s the people.”

Juice Crawls , is an events company that organises pub crawls type events. Instead of getting a different beer at each stop, participants get a juice at each stop. The events, which originated in Brooklyn, New York, attract thousands of clean-living participants and have spread to several cities.

Sober Travel is a teetotal travel company that offers completely alcohol and drug-free holiday experiences and tours all over the world.

The global hotspots

According to Mintel, China is currently the most prolific global innovator of low or no alcohol beer product launches. One in every four beers launched in China in 2016 fell into the no or low-alcohol category.

Furthermore, Africa and the Middle East are also hotspots, due to the large population growth and the significant, conservative Muslim influence in the region. One in every three beers launched in Africa and the Middle East in 2016 were no or low alcohol, a 22% increase from 2015.

These regions represent an opportunity for businesses to bring more sober drinking options to market.

By Bronwyn Williams

Image credit: Louis Kang

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