Ok, so you’re not *all* going sober but there’s definitely a lot of you. In fact, almost half of people in Britain are shunning a regular drink and over a fifth don’t drink alcohol at all with the Office for National Statistics reporting that the number of adults saying they drink alcohol, is the lowest on record. Selfishly, I’m glad. Why? Because it means drinks companies, bars and restaurants are finally having to shake things up.
In 2016, writing for ‘The Guardian’, Chaplin posed the question of whether Sober was ‘finally trendy?’
But, Chaplin wasn’t wrong, she was just ahead of the curve. Today, ‘mindful drinking’ is trending and binge drinking has had its heyday: there’s been a societal shift from the giddy wide-armed applauding of blackouts, necking pints and vomiting to a gentle flirtation with the idea of sobriety or, at least, taking it easy.
So, why am I so smug? Well, let me get one thing straight: I’m not sober. I have a good relationship with our local wine and beer merchant and I’m happily working my way through the gin cocktail list in the bar around the corner. But, admittedly, in recent years, I’ve stopped binge drinking and have cut down on my alcohol intake and, honestly, the hardest thing isn’t the not drinking it’s deciding what to drink from the meagre choice of non-alcoholic drinks on offer.
Or at least, it was.
With swathes of would-be gluggers going Sober for October, taking part in Dryanuary and even giving up booze altogether, it’s affecting the market.
But why the sudden change in attitude?
Well, the multitude of reasons behind this shift are well-documented – just type ‘mindful drinking’ into Google – and seem to amount to a better understanding of health and wellbeing. Perhaps social media has a part to play in this metamorphosis, too: the erudite fear that comes with being able to upload and share content in an instant is quite literally sobering.
Of course, while many of us are going sober, it’s the younger generations (coined ‘Gen Sober’) who are at the wheel of this big sobriety bus and whilst the 90s’ trends we grew up with (scrunchies, tracksuits, Reebok classics, the Spice Girls!) are making a comeback, thankfully, binge drinking isn’t one of them. Gen Sober might look like we did but they’re a new sort for whom mindfulness and authenticity are their rebuttal to getting steaming-drunk.
It’s their mindfulness that has stirred drinks companies to think about how they’ll satiate this new sort. Such discerning customers mean their offerings are diversifying and the culture in bars and restaurants is shifting with alcohol-free finally finding its place on menus.
What’s more, with the #craftnotcrap movement intoxicating the masses, companies are realising that ‘Premiumisation’ (the notion that we are happy to pay more for a higher quality product when we’re consuming less of it – yes, that’s why your Gin in a Copa de Balon costs a tenner) is something they can tap into with alcohol alternatives.
Furthermore, established brands in the drinks industry are reacting positively to the changes in attitude with the likes of craft brewers Brewdog launching their 0.5% craft beer ‘Nanny State’ and supermarkets: Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s introducing alcohol-free Prosecco alternatives (or, ‘Nosecco’ as it’s affectionately known) as people like you and I eschew alcohol.
It seems, there’s even space for new companies to emerge in order to cater for this market like premium drinks brand Seedlip.
Seedlip is the world’s first non-alcoholic distilled spirit (think 0% gin). Their offering is shattering the long-held idea that alcohol-free is insipid, or worse, saccharine (no more syrupy fruit juices in alcohol-free cocktails, please!). Instead, they’re demonstrating perfectly how alcohol alternatives don’t have to compromise taste, aesthetic or having a good time.
Finally! Something those of us not drinking will actually want to choose, sip and definitely ‘gram (no, just me?).
So, ‘CHEERS’ (sort of), Gen Sober!