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People are drinking less, but don't blame millennials

Brewers, vintners and distilleries should respond with enjoyable, non-alcoholic refreshments for adults who still love to socialize—or risk losing business.

August 8, 2019

2 Min Read
consumption of alcoholic beverages is decreasing Morning Consult

Reports of millennials’ killing the alcohol industry are exaggerated.

A new Morning Consult analysis shows that adults of all ages are cutting back on drinking. A Morning Consult poll found that 40% of 1,166 U.S. adults ages 21 and older say they're drinking less than they were five years agmorning-consult-nonalcoholic market-755x1013.png

o, and that share is about the same across all age groups.

Compared to one year ago, 31% of drinkers said they’re drinking less while most (56%) said they’re drinking about as much.

The top reasons to drink less were wanting a healthier lifestyle (67%), saving money (55%) and losing weight (44%).        

More than 40% of the drinking-age population doesn't drink, and 46% of consumers—regardless of age—have purchased non-alcoholic alternatives.

Notably, regular drinkers are more likely to have bought a non-alcoholic drink than teetotalers, suggesting there is money to be made by the growing non-alcoholic beverage industry and that traditional alcohol brands could suffer if they don't adapt.

This trend toward sobriety may have enough momentum to reshape parts of the alcohol industry, the research found. The most recent data from Nielsen shows that sales of spirits slowed to 1.8% growth in 2017 compared with 5.8 percent growth between 2015 and 2016.

“While some of this trend has been driven by millennials, we are really starting to see the ‘millennial effect,’ where their behaviors influence relationships, regardless of age and lifestyle, all around them,” Heidi Dillon Otto, portfolio director of Distill Ventures LLP’s North America team, wrote in an email. Distill Ventures is the venture capital arm of Diageo PLC, the British spirits maker.

In response to consumers who are drinking less alcohol, Distill Ventures launched a dedicated line of non-alcoholic drinks in July 2017. The company’s portfolio is now about 25% alcohol-free.  

The Morning Consult results don’t line up with data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, however: Federal results showed that in 2016, 55% of adults said they had consumed an alcoholic beverage in the past month, about the same as in 2002.

Morning Consult surveyed in July 1,062 men and 1,139 women (2,201 total). By generation, 31% were baby boomers (ages 55-73); 28% Generation X (ages 39-54); 27% millennials (ages 23-38); and 10% Generation Z (ages 21-13).

The majority, 69%, did not graduation from college; 20% had earned bachelor’s degrees; and 11% continued with graduate school or further.

Whites made of 78% of those surveyed, followed by Hispanics, 16%; blacks, 12%; and other, 9%. Those with incomes under $50,000 a year comprised 57% of respondents; 30% had incomes of $50,000 to $100,000; and 13% made more than $100,000 annually.



Source: Morning Consult

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