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(Not) drunk in love: Gen Z’s move away from alcohol

Josephine Hansom VP Youth 10/10/2022

Classic Millennial consumer behaviour is to buy less but buy better – could Gen Z be following suit when it comes to alcohol?

Gen Z (like Millennials) like to support businesses that align with their values, whether that be more sustainable products, promotion of clean eating, or taking part in a social cause.

To appeal to Gen Z, brands need to demonstrate that they prioritise quality over quantity.

Gen Z also value a brand’s story and its engagement in social responsibility, which points to a preference for ‘craft’ brands.

More experience, less buzz

When asked why they drink, having fun, socialising, and celebrating special occasions each topped 70% for Gen Z.

Our data also supports that when given a choice, 64% of young people prefer receiving experiences as gifts over physical presents. This suggests that young people may not be drinking to get drunk, but for the experience – it is about connecting with each other.

However, recent research published by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation found that there are only risks and no benefits to drinkers under 40. This, coupled with the hashtag #sobercurious receiving 229 million views, might have left Gen Z questioning whether drinking alcohol is worth it.

Heightened digital literacy

According to a Think with Google article, 49% of Gen Z claim that their online image is always at the back of their mind, and that 76% feel it’s important to always be in control of all aspects of their life.

As digital natives, Gen Z understand the necessary precautions that should be taken with their online presence better than their forebearers (Millennials) – this leads them to be wary of ‘drunk posting’. To lose inhibition has become far more dangerous.

What does this mean?

Gen Z want more from food/drinks companies

It is possible that it’s no longer enough to just provide food/drinks that taste good. Gen Z want authentic brand stories and social engagement, they want brands’ involvement in sustainable practices, and transparency on alcohol’s effects on health – young people want more.

Gen Z value experiences

Gen Z know how to have a good time without needing alcohol and have an appetite for a drinking experience that’s more than just getting drunk.

Gen Z are anxious about self-image control

For young people today, the consequences of ‘letting loose’ could be dire. Nothing is ever permanently removable from the internet once it’s online – and Gen Z know this. With such need for vigilance at all times, young people are left anxious about their self-image.

So, what can we learn from young people’s drinking habits?

It is important for brands to be inclusive and show that there are alternatives (e.g., providing low or no-alcohol drinks, providing venues that are not just about the drinking but add an experiential element, etc.).

To appeal to Gen Z, brands need to demonstrate that they prioritise quality over quantity; it’s key to emphasise the use of better quality and/or better-for-you ingredients, even if it comes at a higher price point.

Want to find out more about the attitudes and behaviours of Gen Z? Download our panel book here to discover how we can help you achieve even the most niche of youth insight objectives, or to speak directly to one of our experts, please get in touch below.

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