Aiding change in drinking habits

By Elaine Hindal, chief executive, Drinkaware

Over the past few months, Drinkaware has conducted several pieces of research into UK consumers’ drinking habits. The more insights we collect about why, when, where and how people drink, the better equipped we become to help them build a healthier relationship with alcohol and remove harmful drinking from our society. 

The latest surveys asked people about their drinking patterns and intentions around Dry January and no and low-alcohol drinks and the results make interesting reading for anyone involved in producing or selling alcohol. 

According to our research, 27% of UK adults cut out or cut back on alcohol during January this year. Of this group, 59% said they planned to continue to reduce their drinking in the long term and 12% said they intended to stop drinking completely. 

We asked these questions near the end of January, a time when the respondents would have seen the benefits of reducing or giving up alcohol, such as better quality of sleep and higher energy levels. So we hope that, a couple of months on from that research, many people are continuing with more moderate drinking and enjoying a healthier lifestyle as a result. 

No and low-alcohol drinks will undoubtedly be finding a place in the shopping trolleys of many of those who have cut down on or given up drinking. Among midlife drinkers – aged 45-64 – no and low-alcohol drinks are more accepted than they were, as our survey showed, with 51% of people in this age group saying they have drunk, or would be willing to try, alcohol-free drinks, and 66% saying the same about low-alcohol options. 

It’s good to see midlife drinkers are using now and low-alcohol drinks to help them moderate their drinking and we should applaud the innovation and investment that has gone into making low and no-alcohol drinks a far more exciting option than they were only a few years ago. The choice and quality of low and no-alcohol beers, ciders, wines and spirit alternatives today is better than ever. 

At Drinkaware, midlife drinkers are one of the groups we are particularly interested in. They are the most likely to be at risk of alcohol-related health harms because they tend to drink more regularly and above the recommended guidelines of 14 units a week. Most of their alcohol is purchased in the off-trade and drunk in the home. 

Helping these drinkers to develop better drinking habits is the basis for our Drink Free Days campaign, which launched in 2018, with the latest burst of radio and digital advertising running this January and February and more planned for later in the year. 

Drink Free Days encourages people to have more days in the week when they don’t drink, as well as suggesting healthy activities they could take up, such as cycling, swimming or walking football. The message is clear: cut back on drinking and see the health benefits such as weight loss and reduced blood pressure, which will make exercise more enjoyable. Through our involvement in walking football over the past couple of years, we’ve seen the transformative effect that reducing alcohol and taking up exercise can have on the physical and mental wellbeing of midlife drinkers. 

There’s no doubt the UK’s drinking landscape is changing for the better and, while we are far from complacent, we are delighted with the shift to more responsible drinking. Retailers who want to stay relevant will need to make sure they have a no and low-alcohol drinks offer that excites drinkers, or they may find their moderate-drinking customers start shopping elsewhere. 

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