The Sober Curious Alcohol Trend: What Motivates Gen Z to Reduce Alcohol Consumption


An increasingly common new year’s resolution is to abstain from drinking alcohol. Over the past month, the Canadian Cancer Society has been running a ‘Dry Feb’ fundraising challenge, raising awareness of the health risks associated with drinking alcohol while encouraging participants to try going alcohol-free. The Canadian guidelines were drastically revised last year, advising Canadians to limit alcohol consumption to 2 drinks per week – and noting that any amount of alcohol can be harmful.

Amid growing awareness of the health risks associated with alcohol, the sober-curious movement is growing as more and more consumers are rethinking their relationship with alcohol and exploring low-alcohol and non-alcoholic alternatives. In response, major brands are expanding into alcohol-free product offerings, including beer, wine, spirits, and ready-to-drink mixed beverages.

The sober-curious trend is gaining traction especially among younger consumers. Recent research has found that members of Gen Z are more likely than older generations to cut back on alcohol and show greater interest in low/non-alcoholic drinks. However, the reasons behind Gen Z’s interest in lighter drink options are not well understood. Are young consumers heeding the warnings of health authorities, or do they have other reasons for moving away from alcohol?

We turned to our Social Values segmentation to help us understand the range of motivations behind the sober-curious movement. In addition to comparing the Social Values of Gen Z to those of older generations, we explored the distinct mindsets and priorities that exist among different segments of Gen Z consumers.

Health Consciousness and Financial Savings

The two most frequently mentioned explanations for reducing alcohol consumption are health and wellness benefits and saving money. The Social Value Effort Toward Health is high among the Gen Z segments Egalitarian Idealists and Hustling Hedonists. These groups are health conscious, reporting that they manage diet and exercise with care. Inclined to keep up with health-related news, they are likely aware of the health risks associated with drinking alcohol and may view sobriety as part of a commitment to long-term health.

The cost of alcohol can be prohibitive for some consumers, especially in the context of overall cost-of-living increases. Dutiful Accomplishers and Guarded Independents are Gen Z segments that over-index on Saving on Principle, a Social Value that describes an inclination toward frugality and an attraction to accumulating money for future security. These consumers may view alcohol as an expensive discretionary purchase and look for ways to reduce their spending, such as drinking at home and opting for mocktails (over cocktails) during social outings.

Smaller Gatherings and Novel Trends

Looking at Gen Z as a whole, two additional Social Values that may help explain the generation’s interest in low/non-alcoholic drinks are Social Intimacy and Pursuit of Novelty. Compared to other generations, Gen Z score highest on Social Intimacy, a desire to connect with small, closely knit groups of people. In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have found themselves spending more time socializing at home and less in bars and other public places. A shift away from going out for drinks in crowded bars is likely even more prevalent among Gen Z consumers given their preference for intimate, casual gatherings. In smaller groups and domestic settings, there’s likely to be less emphasis on social drinking and pressure to consume alcohol.

Low-alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks don’t represent a retreat from pleasure and fun. As these drinks gain popularity, an ever-greater variety is available, appealing to consumers eager to explore new innovations and trends. Gen Z score high on the Social Value Pursuit of Novelty, demonstrating an active desire to discover new products and experience something new every day. Driven by a thirst for what’s new and trendy, this generation is likely to be especially open to tasting new alcohol-free product offerings and experimenting with mixology, looking at social media for inspiration on mocktails and low-alcohol drink recipes. This motivation is particularly relevant for those high on Post-Materialist Mindsets (such as the Reflective Realists and Optimistic Observers). These change-oriented consumers are interested in new ideas and lifestyles, an outlook that could certainly apply to explorations of sobriety.


While there’s ample evidence to show that demand for low/non-alcoholic drinks is growing among Gen Z consumers, it’s likely that the same general behaviour to reduce alcohol consumption is being driven by entirely different mindsets and motivations across segments within this cohort. By demonstrating an understanding of underlying motivations behind the sober curious trend, alcohol and non-alcoholic brands can build trust with their target audiences. Social Values can help inform positioning and promotion strategies to ensure that brands communicate in a way that is relevant and likely to resonate.

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