A new “sober curious” generation reinvents the culture of alcohol consumption in Australia


  • Generational shifts are transforming the culture of drinking, as a growing number of Australians explore the ‘curious sober’ movement.
  • Global sales of non-alcoholic beverages are increasing and Australian brands are embarking on the adventure.
  • “We wanted to be the alternative and provide something that could hold up,” said Yolanda Uys, founder of non-alcoholic gin company Banks Botanicals.
  • Visit the Business Insider Australia homepage for more stories.

Influencer Olivia rogers decided to quit drinking earlier this year after another hangover on Sunday. This was the catalyst for her to start exploring the “sober curious” movement.

With a brand that focuses heavily on lifestyle and fitness content, she felt a dissonance between the life she’s been showcasing on social media and her reality for some time, but hadn’t “made the connection. “she said.

“I had never really challenged this decision-making process that my weekends were guaranteed to involve alcohol consumption,” she told Business Insider Australia.

“It just wasn’t something that really crossed my mind that some people might find strange, but most of my friends were the same.”

After researching online and reading books on the subject, she decided to challenge herself to quit drinking for 30 days, which quickly became 50, then 200.

“I kind of realized that it wasn’t helping my intentions to be healthy, to be the best version of myself and for my sanity, that I was doing something so damaging.”

She now regularly publishes articles about her experiences with sobriety to an audience made up mainly of young Australian women.

Rogers is part of a growing cohort of “sober curious”: those who seek to question their relationship to alcohol and, by extension, the culture of drinking, without necessarily identifying with narratives of drug addiction.

As the movement has grown in recent years, a wave of public figures, including influencers using their platforms to document their own journeys away from drinking, has given it a new identity and pushed it towards the general public.

Ingrid Kesa, a 32-year-old independent brand strategist, told Business Insider Australia that she quit drinking three years ago after a similar period of soul-searching.

“It was more about questioning the mainstream, the cultural relationship to alcohol and how ingrained it is in everyday life,” Kesa said of her experience.

“There are a lot of gray areas between what is a healthy relationship with alcohol and what is actually unpleasant. And what’s detrimental to your health, your happiness, your well-being and all of those things.

“Sober curious” as more than a simple trend

Even before the pandemic shut down bars around the world, alcohol consumption was on the decline as millennials and millennials seek healthier habits and binge less.

Global beverage market analysis firm IWSR found that Australia’s low-alcohol and non-alcoholic segment grew 2.9% in 2021, with alcohol sales declining 1.4%.

He predicts that by 2024 it will grow 16% and become one of the fastest growing segments of the market.

AB InBev, the world’s largest brewing conglomerate, says he’s waiting sales of alcohol-free and low-alcohol beers will account for 20% of sales by 2025, triple its current share.

Michael Livingston, associate professor at the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University, is part of a team seeking to better understand a current trend seen in wealthier Western countries.

Young people, from the early 2000s, began to drink much less than previous generations.

“This is a question that has puzzled us for a while now,” Livingston told Business Insider Australia.

“This is a trend that we are seeing globally, or at least in high-income countries with similar consumer cultures to ours,” such as the UK, US, Canada and the United States. New Zealand, he said.

And while there are “a bunch of theories” as to why this is the case, including a growing awareness of the health risks of alcohol, Livingston says there are compelling arguments to be made. that the perception and performance of identity through the prism of social media has contributed in one way or another to this change.

“We have theorized and I… suspect that the shift to a social life lived at least partly online” is a contributing factor.

“What emerges more in qualitative interviews is this idea of ​​surveillance, that everything you do is photographic and shareable.

“And so the idea of ​​being out of control is more of a concern and the idea of ​​something going viral.”

Livingston’s research also found that the decline in alcohol use also did not translate into an increase in other practices such as vaping or recreational drug use.

No other drug is “nearly important enough to replace the reduced amount of alcohol,” he said.

“It doesn’t appear that there was a simple one-year substitution of alcohol for another substance.”

New entrants to the market

Ben Kraus, founder of Beechworth-based Victorian Bridge Road Brewers, told Business Insider Australia that he developed a non-alcoholic beer for the company after he and his family found themselves trapped in Austria during the first pandemic blockages in 2020.

Kraus, whose wife and partner are Austrian, travels to Europe often and takes the opportunity to conduct market research. In 2005, when he founded the brewery, it brought craft beer back to Australia – already well established abroad.

In 2020, it was alcohol-free beer.

“I started seeing this growth in non-alcoholic beer before I saw a lot of it in Australia,” Kraus said.

“I always watch how people buy in supermarkets or what they buy in a bar,” he said.

“One year nobody had non-alcoholic beer, the next year a couple, and the last year I was there I couldn’t have gone to someone who didn’t offer alcohol-free beer as freely as it offered beer. “

A stint in a German brewery during the European summer led to the development of the company’s first non-alcoholic beer; a lager using a recipe that uses a fermentation process similar to traditional beer, but stops the process before the alcohol content reaches 5%.

Banks Botanicals was founded in 2020 as part of a growing market of Australia-based companies seeking to address an emerging high-end market of consumers looking for an alcohol-free equivalent to top alcohol brands. range.

Yolanda Uys, the founder of the company, said she wanted to create a product that reflects the aesthetics and quality of the many artisanal and premium gin brands that are flooding the Australian market.

“It’s organic, it’s alcohol-free, it’s vegan, it’s gluten-free and made in the Yarra Valley,” Uys told Business Insider Australia, explaining his product’s appeal to a growing customer base. .

Echoing Kraus, Uys said she believes sophisticated products like hers appeal to the general public, as well as “sober curious” who would consider them alongside other gin brands.

“It’s not just about soft drinkers,” Uys said. “We wanted to be the alternative and provide something that can hold up. “

Uys said his research showed that nearly 65% ​​of Australian consumers said they were interested in alcohol-free or low-alcohol brands. And nearly 70% want to either decrease or maintain low alcohol consumption.

“So that means it’s not just for people who don’t drink,” Uys said. “It’s a question of moderation.”

Simple drinks entering the sophisticated market ‘

Kesa said he has noticed a subtle shift in the way companies market their soft drinks – and the types of companies that sell them.

She referred to the Melbourne-based wine company NON, which was founded in 2019 to serve the premium non-alcoholic wine market.

William Wade, founder of the brand and former chef trained at Noma in Denmark, wanted to create an alcohol-free wine for a younger clientele than traditional non-alcoholic drinks.

“All alcohol-free wines are specially made to pair with food,” Kesa said of the brand, adding that she saw it as an example of companies offering “more sophisticated” and “really uplifting” options. ” this market.

Kraus said the increase in non-alcoholic beverages in general and the “curious sober” trend, as well as low levels of ABV hard seltzer, are a sign that “drinks as a whole [are] starts to fade a bit.

“It’s happening in the wine industry, not from an alcohol point of view but from a market point of view, where we see these fun wines being produced as natural wines and wines.”

“You see it in the undercover seltzer markets; really simple drinks entering the sophisticated market.

Kraus said he sees a broader shift in the mainstream drinking culture, towards non-alcoholic drinks as just another choice to make when ordering at the bar.

“It’s not exclusively the only glass. It is not the dominant drink. It’s just another option that people can have.


About Michael Brafford

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