Dry July and the challenge of zero alc

During Dry July, customers are looking to cut out the alcohol completely either not going out and drinking any alcohol at all, or moving to non-alcoholic versions of their favourite drinks.

There has been a lot of discussion about health and wellness trends in recent years, which have prompted the emergence of abstinence months like Dry January, FebFast, Dry July and Ocsober. In turn, this has seen discussion on the role they have in the evolution of craft beer, as everything from processes to marketing become more ‘mainstream’.

One of the biggest trends in craft beer right now is of course no-alcohol beer, with Modus Operandi launching Nort and Bridge Road Brewers’ Free Time joining no-alcohol brands like UpFlow, Heaps Normal and Sobah, not to mention offerings from the major brewers such as Great Northern Zero.

It’s a safe bet for retailers so far – according to sales data from the Endeavour Group, sales of non-alcoholic drinks have grown 83 per cent in the last 12 months.

Endeavour Group’s head of merchandise transformation Bree Coleman said this surge was because customers want to ‘moderate’, a reflection of the broader trend of Australians “drinking less but better”.

This is a frequent narrative in the wider beverage industry, and one that has triggered craft beer’s emergence in new categories, from seltzer and kombucha, to gluten-free or reduced beers. It’s also a perception that is prompting business decisions at the brewery level.

Are Australians drinking less, but better?

A recent report from IRI Worldwide found that instead of focusing on weight loss and fad diets, attitudes are shifting to moderation and avoidance of particular ingredients in all areas of food and drink.

Organisations such as the Alcohol Beverages Australia industry body and drinks giant AB InBev have highlighted this “drinking less but better” trend in recent years, and current statistics seem to corroborate it, particularly in certain demographics.

The Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing last month also revealed that the proportion of young people aged 14 to 24 drinking at lifetime risky levels almost halved, from 25 per to 13.1 per cent between 2001 and 2019. 38 per cent of young people had not consumed alcohol in the previous 12 months, it found.

The AIHW’s latest study on alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use in Australia found that overall there has been a decline in the proportion of Australians exceeding the NHMRC guidelines for lifetime risk by consuming more than 2 standard drinks per day, it said.

At the same time, revenues in the alcohol industry have been rising, as evidenced by the profit increases at Endeavour Drinks Group and Coles Liquor bottleshops. This was particularly the case over the pandemic period.

Retailers however suggested that sales growth began to slow following the lifting of the majority of restrictions, although it remains to be seen what impact the latest lockdowns will have on alcohol sales.

Anti-alcohol lobby group the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education highlighted this increase in revenue recently in the state of Victoria specifically.

Both FARE and the Cancer Council were contacted for any commentary or research on these issues but Brews News was told they had nothing to provide.

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