Sober Curious Nation: One in Three Americans are Trying to Drink Less Alcohol in 2023
Sober Curious Nation: 34% of Americans Aim to Drink Less Alcohol in 2023
Ninety-three percent of people feel that drinking alcohol is a big part of America’s culture, but could that perception be changing?
More Americans appear to be flirting with the idea of being sober curious, a term that means actively drinking less alcohol or not drinking it at all. There’s a growing interest in non-alcoholic drinks, and Gen Z may be leading the charge from cocktails to mocktails, finds our new consumer sentiment survey of 1,000 Americans.
Drinking Decisions in 2023
America is trying to cut back: One in four Americans are aware of the sober curious movement, and 34% say they’re trying to drink less in 2023. While one in three learned about the sober curious movement from a family member or friend, 63% have been introduced to it via social media.
More than one in three (36%) have tried alcohol-free beer, and of those who haven’t, 22% would like to give it a try. Meanwhile, 32% want to try alcohol-free wine and spirits. Although only one in 10 have tried cannabis-infused drinks, 38% are interested in giving them a shot.
One reason Americans choose to drink is because many (32%) also enjoy the adventure of exploring a variety of alcoholic beverages. In fact, more women (37%) than men (26%) like to experiment. That may be part of why some women are more open to trying alcohol-free drinks while pregnant. Over one-third (34%) said they’d try non-alcoholic beer or wine.
Top Reasons Americans Don’t Drink
Over half (56%) of non-drinkers say the primary reason they don’t consume alcohol is simply that they don’t want to drink. More women (64%) than men (48%) feel this way. Among Gen Z non-drinkers, 70% say they don’t drink alcohol because they don’t want to.
Health ranks second, with nearly one in three (31%) saying it’s why they avoid alcohol. More men (37%) than women (26%) said staying healthy was one of their main motivations for being alcohol-free, as did 41% of Baby Boomers.
Addiction is also a concern for some Americans. One in five are concerned they will become addicted, and for 28%, addiction already runs in their family.
For many Americans, it isn’t the first attempt at reducing alcohol consumption. Twenty-eight percent who currently drink shared they’ve tried to break up with alcohol before. Most people (80%) stopped cold turkey, while about one in six (18%) used a challenge such as Dry January to get started. More than two in three (67%) succeeded and stopped drinking for the time period they wanted to, joining the almost a quarter of Americans ages 21+ who don’t drink at all.
Americans mainly drink because it’s a fun activity to do with family and friends, and 74% of those who drink identify as social drinkers. However, with alcohol such a big part of social life, many of the sober curious are looking for social environments where alcohol isn’t a main feature. Nearly half (45%) of respondents say they’re interested in going to a sober bar, where only mocktails are served. That includes 45% of people who drink and 47% who don’t drink.
How Much Americans Drink
One-third (34%) of Americans feel younger generations are consuming less alcohol than older generations. However, 74% feel younger generations are using cannabis more.
Indeed, alcohol consumption levels vary widely by generation, with younger generations saying they drink less than older Americans. Overall, Americans have an average of four alcoholic drinks per week, and 14% admit they lie to their doctors about how much they consume. Gen Z respondents say they only have three drinks a week, compared to Baby Boomers and Millennials, who average five.
Nearly one in five (17%) Americans admitted they don’t drink but do use marijuana. This is more common among Gen Xers (26%) and Millennials (21%) than Baby Boomers and Gen Zers, of whom only one in 10 consider themselves alcohol-free but still use marijuana.
About one in six Americans identify as a stress drinker. Across the generations, Millennials identified could relate the most to stress drinking with 22%.
Separately, more than one in four Americans (26%) consider themselves mindful drinkers, meaning they’re intentional about how they drink. Among all the generations, 32% of Gen Z feel they are intentional compared to 26% of Millennials and 23% of both Gen X and Baby Boomers.
Alcohol Purchase Habits
When Americans go to the store to buy alcohol, they spend an average of $30. Most Americans (67%) buy their alcohol from grocery stores or liquor stores. About one in three (32%) buy it at superstores and 19% grab liquor from convenience stores. Thirty percent buy alcohol weekly, and 31% buy it monthly.
The most popular times of the year to drink alcohol are during the winter holidays and the summer months. NCS purchase data shows wine purchases were up 17% from November 2022 to December 2022. Alcohol purchases also increased by 8% in that time frame. However, there was a sharp decline from December 2021 to January 2022 (think Dry January and new year’s resolutions). Wine purchases dropped by 29% and alcohol purchases overall fell by 19%.
With more people looking for alcoholic alternatives, beverage brands can target receptive households with a range of options – from nonalcoholic beer and mocktails to sparkling waters, juices and sodas.
Stay on top of emerging trends in CPG and discover more about how consumers shop at convenience stores.
About the consumer sentiment survey
In January 2023, we commissioned a consumer sentiment survey of 1,082 Americans about their drinking habits and preferences. Twenty-five percent were Baby Boomers, 25% Gen X, 25% Millennials, and 25% Gen Z. Forty-nine percent were male, 48% female, 1% non-binary/non-conforming, 1% transgender, and 1% preferred not to respond. Respondents ranged in age from 21 to 78, with an average age of 43.
About the NCS Purchase Data
NCS provides purchase insights to brands to help them optimize, measure, and enable sales-based outcomes.NCS’s representative and balanced consumer CPG purchase data set consists of the industry’s preeminent and comprehensive sources. It is inclusive of actual purchase data (transaction information) from big-box retailers, supermarkets, drug stores, convenience stores and other retail channels at which American households buy CPG products spanning 340+ grocery categories. The NCSolutions Purchase Data was analyzed in January 2023.
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