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How do younger drinkers differ to older drinkers?

Roger Perowne CEO 23/09/2020

Our new data from BrandVue Drinks shows that the differences between age groups may be due to the fact that the younger generation is exposed to more ‘drinking opportunity’

As people age, they reduce the variety of occasions and places that they drink

Younger people have been getting bad press recently. Not enough social distancing. Fickle and over sensitive. Drinking too much alcohol. Though people may be too quick to judge… in fact, ONS data shows 18-24-year olds are drinking less alcohol, less often, less to excess than ever before. And BrandVue Drinks data shows that nearly 40% of young people describe themselves as teetotal or rarely drinking alcohol.

Of those younger people who do drink alcohol, we see a significant difference in drinking habits compared to the older generation. Comparing 18-24-year olds with those aged 65-74, BrandVue Drinks data tells us that the younger generation are more likely to buy energy drinks, fruit cider, cocktails, shots and vodka. They are much less likely to drink ale and wine. We can also see that 18-24-year olds are more likely to have bought a wider range of brands – out of 330 brands included in our Top 100 Most Loved Drinks Brands report, they have bought an average of 8.4 different drinks brands in the last four weeks compared to only 1.9 amongst the older generation.

One factor driving this is the evolution of the palate from accessible to more challenging flavours. So, fruit cider is an entry point to apple cider, vodka into dark spirits, lager into ale, cocktails into long mixed drinks etc. We also know it’s driven by social proofing – younger drinkers can associate ale and wine with “old people” and being “boring”.

An easy explanation for the more limited category and brand repertoires of the older generation is that they are “too set in their ways”. But it’s more complicated than that. A key factor is that as people age, they reduce the variety of occasions and places that they drink. Drinkers in their twenties and thirties have more occasions – high and low energy, in home and out of home, in smart and more basic places, large and small groups, with people from work as well as friends and family.

A wider variety of occasions and environments drives a wider variety of drinks brands and categories because people adapt what they drink to where they’re drinking. So whereas the younger generation may well meet friends in a smart bar (G&T) and go out on a work leaving do in a noisy pub (bottle of lager) and have some friends over for a meal (wine) and need something to stay alert on a long journey (energy drink) and go to the local pub quiz (pint), the older generation typically have a narrower range of occasions and places they go to. This helps explain why they have narrower brand repertoires.

The implication of this is that whereas of course as people age their tastes age, it’s important to understand the impact of the occasion and environment on category and brand choices. Brand owners and managers who can position their brand in moments and places most relevant to their target consumer will be best placed to capitalize on new audiences as well as loyal customers.

To find out more about how we can help you using BrandVue Drinks, or to download The Top 100 Most Loved Drinks Brands report, click here.