Gen Z Is Killing The Alcohol Industry, But This Aussie Brand Is Fighting Back

A counter-intuitive solution.

Gen Z Is Killing The Alcohol Industry, But This Aussie Brand Is Fighting Back

Image: BBC

Alcohol has been intertwined with human culture for thousands of years, but recent studies suggest a notable shift in drinking habits, spearheaded by the younger generations. Gen Z, in particular, is embracing sobriety, while Aussie blokes across the board are increasingly prioritising health and fitness by cutting back on alcohol consumption. One Australian brand, however, may have just discovered the way forward…

Whether you’re a whisky man, a vodka man, a beer man or — those most dangerous of creatures — a tequila man, it’s safe to say that alcohol is a pretty key part of social existence for most of us. In Australia, more than many others, booze has been a key part of the national identity for centuries, but it seems that could all be set to change thanks to shifting attitudes towards the grog…

In a study conducted by London creative agency Red Brick Road, it was found that Gen Z — those born between 1996 and 2013 — is the most abstemious generation since the 1950s, challenging the long-established association between youth and alcohol consumption. But why exactly are the young turning their backs on booze?

The first factor cited by the study is that Gen Z prioritises their online image and craves control over their lives in an age of increasing employment and housing precarity. Similarly, as social media continues to play an increasingly significant role in their lives compared to older generations, 49% of Gen Z claim that the way they are perceived online is always at the back of their mind when socialising and drinking, leading them to err on the side of safety, sensibleness, and sobriety.

WATCH: The proof is in the pudding or, more accurately, the big red and white bucket.

On top of this, Gen Z appears to be taking work and academic performance significantly more seriously than their elders, letting it take precedence over socialising and all the alcohol-soaked fun therein. In a pretty stark departure from relatively recent history, approximately 20% of university students are now estimated to be teetotal.

Similarly, Gen Z is infinitely more aware of their health and, especially, their mental health, than prior generations, with 86% of them citing mental health as an important consideration when it comes to drinking, and 70% viewing binge drinking as a “very risky” activity, associating alcohol with “vulnerability,” “anxiety,” and “abuse.”

It would be a mistake, however, to assume that this trend is exclusive to Gen Z. Another recent study, this time conducted by MyFitnessPal, shed light on the changing drinking habits of Australian men from across the generational spectrum. The survey revealed that nearly half of Australian men (45%) expressed an interest in cutting back on their alcohol consumption or eliminating it entirely.

Why? Well, though their online image may be less of a concern versus younger counterparts, their health certainly is not…

Aussies have always loved a drink… but it seems the tides are turning. Image: Maitland Mercury

Prioritising overall health and well-being emerged as the primary reason for men cutting back on alcohol (39%), while concerns about physical fitness and performance (32%) and saving money (32%) also contributed to this paradigm shift.

Moreover, Australian men were found to display better awareness of the alcohol content in beverages compared to their female counterparts, with almost half of the men surveyed correctly identifying a standard unit of alcohol, suggesting that their surprisingly good grasp on what constitutes responsible drinking also being a factor in their decision to put down the schooners. Not bad, boys.

In the midst of changing attitudes towards alcohol consumption, non-alcoholic beverage companies are looking to seize the abundant opportunities that a rapidly changing landscape offers up. One such company is NON, a non-alcoholic wine alternative manufacturer based in Melbourne, whose founder Aaron Trotman embarked on a journey to provide an upscale drinking experience without alcohol. By collaborating with chefs, mixologists, and sommeliers, Trotman and his team have developed a range of non-alcoholic wines that challenge many of the current preconceptions around non-alcoholic beverages.

Unlike traditional alcohol-free wines, NON’s offerings focus on creating a unique sensory experience through the use of real ingredients and culinary techniques. The beverages feature elements such as fruit, tannins, salt, and acids to create complex and layered flavours that not only rival their alcoholic counterparts but — in terms of their delicate flavour profiles and the way these can pair with some of the best restaurants meals Australia has to offer — actually threaten to surpass them.

Aaron Trotman, founder of NON, sees big opportunities ahead. Image: Annika Kafcaloudis 

Speaking to Alcohol Professor, Trotman had this to say:

“Fruit, tannins, salt, and acid: they’re the four markers that we’re looking for. And the best way to do that is by using real ingredients prepared by chefs, making interesting full-body concoctions… We’ve found that having a non-alcoholic program that includes beer, spirits, and a wine alternative [in restaurants] is important; customers want to know that they can still have an elevated experience with a tasting menu even if they don’t drink.”

Aaron Trotman

While companies like NON are at the forefront of this movement, delivering innovative and sophisticated non-alcoholic options that cater to diverse tastes and experiences, we can anticipate an even wider variety of non-alcoholic beverages to pop up as market demand slowly but surely increases and sobriety edges its way into the mainstream.

Though the thought of giving up that much-needed Dutch courage may still weigh heavy on the minds of some, deep down we all know that those hangovers weigh a hell of a lot heavier…