The Future of Drinking: Where and how we might be drinking next

It’s a good time of year to start thinking about drinking.

In the chilly months, many of us love a boozy winter warmer, and with all the office parties and social gatherings, there are plenty of opportunities to get merry. While it’s a welcome respite from the unfriendly weather, the tides seem to be turning in the world of alcohol. Overall alcohol use is trending downwards these days, and alternatives are popping up all over the place.

So, in the spirit of new beginnings for the new year, it’s a good time to pause and reflect, and think about the future of drinking - whether it’s at home, or in a bar, pub or club.

Merry Millennials

As we know, millennials are taking to the bottle - the cola bottle, that is. The under-25s seem to be turning their backs on booze in their droves. What does this mean for the future of pubs, for clubs, and for going out in general?

According to the Office of National Statistics, teetotalism has increased for those aged 16-44 since 2005. And “one third (32%) of all Brits have reduced or limited their alcohol intake over the past 12 months in comparison to what they would usually consume… and half (51%) of the nation’s beer, wine and cider drinkers say they are drinking less alcohol than a few years ago” according to Mintel.

And that’s just the drinks. Pubs are closing at an alarming rate, too. According to The Caterer, the country has lost over 11,000 (23%) of its pubs in the last decade. But success stories abound too: firms such as the ETM bar group are posting record turnovers, proving there will always be demand for places to socialise and get refreshed.

So what’s going on? We clearly haven’t lost the desire to socialise, despite having WhatsApp and Candy Crush to distract ourselves with.

It seems like young folks’ health-conscious attitudes, along with frugality in the face of economic challenges, contribute to their enthusiasm for not-drinking. Add that to rising rents for publicans, and the race to the bottom for supermarket booze prices, and you’ve got a difficult environment for any licensee.

This isn’t the end of the world, or the alcohol industry - it just means there’s a changing world of opportunity out there. So what happens next?

The future of drinking out

Firstly, pubs need to expand their offerings if they want to attract new customers, according to research.

As well as catering for practical concerns like kid-friendly areas, clean loos and plentiful parking spaces, today’s pub-goer wants to see a wider selection on the menu. Alcohol-free and low-alcohol drinks are rising in popularity, alongside vegan food, low sugar drinks and coffee drinks.

There’s also an expanding range of grown-up leisure activities. Escape rooms, axe throwing, darts clubs, ping-pong bars, and crazy golf courses are popping up in cities around the country, and offer a fun alternative to getting smashed. They do tend to offer booze, but when hand-eye coordination is important, keeping it sensible is usually the best way to go.

And now’s a great time to do things a bit differently. It's now becoming more socially acceptable to go alcohol-free on a night out, whether it’s occasionally or full-time. Even the traditional stag do is becoming less booze-focused:

"Grooms are getting older and tiring of alcohol-drenched blowouts, while taste is growing for experiences that will actually prove memorable: in all senses of the word. Younger people are drinking less, and social media means ‘what happens on stag’ is far less likely to remain there. That selfie with a stripper? Probably a lot less hilarious when it could damage your career or relationship.” - Positive News

Pubs throughout the country are drenched in history, but as culture changes around them, they need to keep up to survive and thrive into the future. Lessening alcohol’s grip on the good times is a clever way to do that.

So we fully expect to see these trends continue. Booze certainly won’t disappear - it’s been a significant part of cultural history for thousands of years. But the downsides aren’t to be ignored, and we expect the trend for alternatives to continue to prosper.

Drink less, live more

Thinking of lowering your alcohol intake?

As we now know, it’s not just the drivers, pregnant, or fitness nuts who want to avoid alcohol. It’s those who just fancy drinking a bit less, without missing out on taste. There are a few ways you can cut down in the New Year:

  • Give Dry January a go - not only does it help your wallet and your waistline, but you might sleep a little better too.
  • Swap the occasional tipple for an alcohol-free option - mix it up through the night and enjoy a drink while avoiding the hangover.
Stock up on alcohol-free cocktails for your next house party - give yourself and your guests the option to enjoy a drink without the downsides, especially if they’re driving home.

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