Today’s beverage industry is one of our most consistently bleeding-edge, dynamic and valuable markets. The sales figures, relentless advertising and phenomenal slew of NPD hitting our shelves points to a world seemingly awash with emergent booze brands. But, could 2017 be the first year we see a Dry December and festive period stealing a march on Dry January?  According to the UK Office for National Statistics, the proportion of 16-24 year olds abstaining from alcohol – dubbed ‘Generation Abstemious’- increased by 40% between 2005 and 2014. Moderation is, in fact, increasingly on trend across the age board with one in three in London, and over 20% nationally, claiming to now be teetotal. As this is their current and future consumer, beverage brands should not ignore the massive cultural change that is now taking place – or their role in inspiring a new generation of (non) drinkers.

In our over-saturated, hyper-connected and highly optimized world, we are now exposed to endless opportunities, and want more from our lives and lifestyles than ever before. Why we are now choosing not to drink is just as multifaceted as why we do…our new-found abstinence is not so much a backlash against alcohol itself, but resulting from the major lifestyle shift that has seen us interrogate alcohol’s role in our lives with new health changes and drinking traditions coming into play.

We believe that if beverage brands can recognize these new cultural drivers and translate them into opportunities for growth and development, they will create a more resonant and relevant future for their brand and the beverage industry overall.

  1. Austerity

For a younger generation coming of age during and post the recession, alcohol felt like an increasingly challenging luxury. Now, with huge cultural and lifestyle shifts also influencing them, millennials are limiting how much they drink when they are out, drinking at home, or skipping alcohol altogether as they look for alternative – and affordable – experiences.

The Opportunity: Rethink the format

Brands need to find ways to open up their worlds and design new, more accessible and inclusive formats that extend beyond the bar with kits, delivery options and inspirational recipes that consumers can put their own unique spin on at home or in other environments.  

Cold brew coffee has been big news for a while with cold brew kits, flasks and jugs soaring in popularity. Now, new and dedicated cold brew blends such as the Just Coffee Cooperative’s – which promises ‘hints of malt, milk and dark chocolate’ – are helping consumers hone their home brewing expertise while offering up new taste sensations.

  1. New traditions

Today, we are spoilt for choice; from the rise of the third space in the form of coffee shops and lifestyle gyms, to new social platforms and dating apps, and as a result the unique cultural value of the bar and club as a place to form and find your community has greatly diminished. Consumers are seeking new spaces and traditions that offer more unique, tailored and diverse experiences that feed us with a sense of challenge, change and discovery.

The opportunity: Rethink the occasion

Brands should find new ways to innovate with drink offers and nightlife platforms that have the ability to flex across multiple occasions and moods. Importantly, these new occasions need to enable a sense of (re)discovery, using evocative storytelling to unlock the sensorial elements of a brand, to attract consumers and keep them coming back to discover more.

London’s Redemption Bar, opening in NYC in the near future, serves up vegan, sugar-free, and wheat-free food with an alcohol-free bar and a strapline inviting you to ‘Spoil yourself without spoiling yourself’.

  1. Control

Many drinkers are opting for low or no alcohol as a broader sign of non-conformity, proudly showing their status as an outsider rather than embarrassed by their inability or reluctance to partake.

The Opportunity: Rethink the culture

Brands should design an entirely new language around their products, distinguishing themselves as more than a substitute or ‘less-than alternative’ but a fully-fledged expression in their own right. Creating a drink – or drinks category – that can inspire with intrigue, enticing consumers’ hunger for novel flavor and drinking experiences with a new scope of benefits.  

#ShakenNotSlurred – Curious Elixirs are booze-free, organic – and inspired by craft cocktails – non-alcoholic beverages that offer a refreshing way to drink differently.

  1. Optimised health

As our lifestyles become more health-conscious, sober is the new drunk and we are radically changing our approach to how we engage with traditional nightlife concepts. Juice crawls, yoga dance parties and pre-dawn sober raves provide highly trendy natural highs fueled by a powerful sense of community, caffeine and superfoods.

The Opportunity: Rethink the benefit

Brands should position themselves as part of a larger health movement and create new drink options that offer both ultimate health benefits and intriguing and innovative taste sensations. In doing so, they need to provide a true sense of delicious indulgence, occasion and experience for a new generation of pleasure seekers.

UK bar, Tonic & Remedy, pays homage to the apothecary by specializing in a selection of herbal liqueurs to revitalise and rejuvenate the body, embracing the desire for a new drinking occasion, benefit and healthy indulgence.

We know that the all-important millennial audience – and Gen Z on its tails – is looking for change and are looking to brands to find new ways to do that with, and for, them.

Brands need to challenge the previous boundaries of the beverage category – and rethink their own offer – to open up their worlds, inspire desire with unique products, create a new sense of discovery and be bold about their difference. Above all, changing our expectations with new formats, experiences, narratives and occasions that tap into the mindset of a newly discerning and increasingly influential (non) drinking generation.

Originally published by Branding Magazine.