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The soft generation: drinking preference through the ages

We recently launched BrandVue’s Most Loved Drinks Brands 2023 – which revealed an interesting set of disparities in drinking preference, attitudes and behaviours across all key demographics, including age, region, and gender.

Will Blackett EVP, Consumer 17 July 2023

We recently launched BrandVue’s Most Loved Drinks Brands 2023 – which revealed an interesting set of disparities in drinking preference, attitudes and behaviours across all key demographics, including age, region, and gender.

There are some differences in Brand Love by gender – for example, Jack Daniel’s makes it into the Top 10 for men, while for women, it only appears at #85. Similarly, the most loved beer for the female category is Peroni – yet it doesn’t appear until #74. For men on the other hand, Peroni comes in at #24 – and beer brands appear much more frequently in their top 100.

But despite seeing differences in Brand Love across gender and region (with notable distinctions between Scotland and the rest of the UK), the most significant disparities can be observed across age groups. The most striking contrast arises when we compare the youngest cohort (18-24 year olds) with the oldest (60-74 year olds).

The top 10 most loved drinks brands among Gen Z are all softs. This must be the result of recent familiarity, purchasing, and value for money considerations overriding the nascent interest in drinking alcohol legally.

We also know that an increasing number of younger people are rejecting alcohol and remaining tee-total. We can see this pattern extend into the Millennial generation and it’s only when we get to Gen X do alcohol brands appear in the Top 10. The most loved drinks brands for Baby Boomers are all champagne brands and spirits, with only Fever-Tree and Robinsons appearing in the top 10. Baby Boomers are more likely to be able to afford these brands and it’s more likely that they’re no longer buying for younger members of the family. We also see generational differences within drinks categories. Gen Z’s most loved spirits include brands like Sourz, Smirnoff vodka, Absolut and Malibu. Their top 3 beers are Beavertown Gamma Ray, Stella Artois, and Corona. For Baby Boomers, the most loved spirits are almost all malt whisky brands as well as Baileys, and their top 3 beers are Guinness, Peroni and Birra Moretti.

Some of the widest differences between the two generations are in energy drinks. Red Bull, for example, is in the top 30 most loved brands for Gen Z but doesn’t even make it into the Baby Boomers’ Top 100 drinks brands. Though with all the brand activity targeting the younger market, it’s hardly a shock. Hard Seltzer brands do not feature highly for either Gen Z or Baby Boomers. It’s a category that has struggled to scale in the UK despite numerous high profile brand launches in the last two years, as well as high expectations based on the boom in the US.

A key issue in the UK (compared with the US) is the inability to make any health claims about its lower calorie benefits – and indeed, the ASA rapped the knuckles of a well-known UK brewery for promoting a mere “90 calories per can” in its hard seltzers. The lack of an established soft seltzer category in the UK acting as a bridge into the alcoholic version also didn’t help. We can clearly see how overall Brand Love varies across the generations. The key challenge for brewers, distillers and wine makers is how to make alcohol more relevant and loved by younger generations and to build the same strong emotional (rather than functional) relationships enjoyed by older drinkers.

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For the fourth year running, BrandVue’s Most Loved Drinks Brands recognises the brands that have forged the deepest emotional connections with UK consumers. The research dives deep into the drinks sector, offering valuable insight on a host of emerging trends – from the increasing set of challenges hard seltzer brands are facing to the burgeoning popularity of nostalgia marketing.

Offering expert analysis and observation throughout, the report serves as a key resource for brands looking to expand and succeed in this space.

Download your free copy below to find out more.
Download your free copy below to find out more.

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