In the wake of new year celebrations, from Sydney to San José, one particular trend has steadily gained popularity worldwide.
A valued tradition in human history for over 4,000 years, from exercise goals, to ‘going green’, billions of people across the globe mark the beginning of the solar calendar with promises of new year’s resolutions.
Yet, one such resolution is pouring into society with ease, leaving many of us asking ourselves the question… to dry or not to dry.
MacGregor Black takes a closer look at why so many are committing to Dry January, what impact the movement is having on the global Drinks industry, and the no and low brands that are toasting to its success.
Dry January, as we know it today, is a relatively new concept. Established by British charity, Alcohol Change, the ‘Dry January’ campaign was launched with the ambitious aim of encouraging sobriety throughout Britain during the month of January. The Alcohol Change UK trademarked the name ‘Dry January in 2014’, however the practice of abstaining from alcohol during the first month of the year can be dated all the way back to 1942; when the Finnish Government launched their ‘Sober January’ campaign as part of their war efforts against the Soviet Union. Although, you guessed it… the campaign was rather short-lived, and the following January saw alcohol welcomed back with open arms.
In 2014, 17,000 Brits signed up to Alcohol Change’s debut campaign. In 2022, more than 130,000 people registered, it’s most successful year to date. And in 2023, although official numbers have dwindled slightly, statistics may suggest that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing…
The decrease seen in 2023’s Dry January participation is not for a lack of consciousness but is most likely accredited to there simply being fewer ‘drinkers’ out there. A survey conducted by business intelligence company, Morning Consult, revealed that the proportion of Millennials that said they drink alcohol has reduced by 10%, from December 2021 to December 2022. Not only that, but a study conducted by the University of Sussex found that 4% of people were who previously participated, were able to stay abstinent even after Dry January, another factor that could also account for fewer participants during future campaigns.
Despite the slight dip in interest, it’s important to note the number of repeat participants in 2023’s official Dry January campaign. Among those who have previously participated, an impressive 72% said they were planning on participating again.
While there are many reasons one might dive headfirst into Dry January, the desire to make healthier choices remaining the no.1 influencer, what exactly are the impacts of starting the year sober? How does this benefit those participating? And what effect does this have on the Drinks industry?
Although often thought of as a sheer test of willpower, studies show that those who participate in Dry January experience a range of long-lasting benefits. Published in Psychology & Health, a 2020 study of 4,323 adults who participated in Dry January reported that 63% saved money, 56% experienced improved sleep, 52% had more energy, and 50% reported better overall health. Successful participants also found that the challenge brought about a significant increase in well-being and positive self-belief.
Whist Dry January is a great way to spread awareness and encourage healthier choices, since the campaign’s debut in 2014, it has spread rapidly, and proves to be far more than just a month-long trend. As a result, no and low product innovation has flourished, and the fast-moving nature of the ‘alcohol-free’ category has birthed a range of new products.
New findings from the IWSR Drinks Market Analysis revealed that the UK no-and-low category rose by 9% in 2022, and the sector is predicted to grow by a compound annual growth rate of 7% between 2023-2026. In 2020, no and low alcohol beers represented 5% of the overall beer market, with many mainstream beer brands like Heineken, Peroni, Coors and Budweiser launching their own now-and-low product ranges, which has resulted in no-and-low beer options seeing a 6% growth in the UK. When we compare this to the wider beer market, which is actually predicted to flatline, or even decline slightly this year, the shift in not only consumption, but also production, is clear to see.
“The recent explosion in no-and-low beverages could possibly lay the foundations for higher numbers of participants in future Dry Jan Campaigns,” comments Annie Cairns, Specialist Drinks Consultant at MacGregor Black.
“Non-alcoholic spirits volume climbed by 38% last year in the UK alone, with agave alternatives more than doubling! So, it stands to reason that, if people have a wider range of alternative options, they’re more likely to stick with the challenge. Not to mention that the recent rise in health-conscious consumerism will, no doubt, also play a part in influencing the success of this year’s Dry January campaign, as transparency around nutrition and ingredients continues to empower more people to make healthier choices.”
While the health benefits are clear to see, one important factor remains somewhat unchanged. As many low and no alcohol products often cost equally as much as their alcoholic counterparts, those participating to save money may find their alcohol-free options much less attractive.
Based on the overall aim of Dry January, you’d be right to assume that alcohol brands, bars, pubs, and restaurants usually suffer a dip in revenue. However, with a change in demand, comes evolution. In an attempt to stay ahead of the alcohol curve and join in on the Dry January trend, many businesses opt for executing strategic plans ahead of the campaign. For example, increasing the marketing spend allocated to their non-alcoholic product ranges, or launching new tactical partnerships with retailers prior to the New Year, with the aim of better positioning their product to draw in those that are participating. Furthermore, many brands are choosing to offer limited-time promotions on their alcoholic products (along-side their no and low offerings) in an effort to avoid a drop in overall sales.
‘The Ones to watch’…
Whether you’re jumping on the Dry January trend, cutting out alcohol completely, or just looking to try something new, there are exciting new alcohol-free products hitting the shelves daily. Deriving from a subtle blend of plants and passion, these alcohol alternatives promise to be equally as triumphant in flavour as their liquor laden brothers and sisters.
Dry January aside, the no and low sector is continuing to grow at a brisk pace and alcohol-free beer brand, Lucky Saint is definitely along for the ride. Now the UK’s #1 alcohol-free beer, Lucky Saint is the love child of great tasting flavour and high-quality German brewing. Only a few weeks ago, the brand secured over US$12.2 million in investment during a series A funding round, led by venture capital companies, Beringea and Jam Jar Investments. The funding round marks a record level of investment for a non-alcohol beer brand in Europe!
“This latest investment will ensure further success for the company in the UK and help us build a globally recognized alcohol-free brand,” says Lucky Saint’s Founder & CEO, Luke Boase. “We’ve just scratched the surface of this opportunity.”
Most recently, Lucky Saint has run with its religious theme having launched a series of out of home ads encouraging people to switch to their 0.5% lager during the month of Dry January. Using slogans like ‘Lead me not into temptation’ and ‘Thou shalt not, not drink’, the disruptive campaign has featured across 6-sheets and cross track 48-sheets on the London Underground. The transcendent campaign imagery was captured by iconic photographer, Rankin and also featured still-life photography from Susan Lee.
Lucky Saint’s Managing Director, Emma Heal also announced on LinkedIn last week that the growing alcohol-free beer brand is planning to open a ‘Pub for our times’ this March. The multifaceted hospitality venue will serve the brand’s range of non-alcoholic drinks, as well as a vast portfolio of alcoholic drinks, enjoyed inside or outside under their stunning new awnings. The venue will also offer customers, food, a sneak peek at the podcast studio, events, mental health training and mindful drinking courses held by global sobriety movement, Club Soda.
Thomas & Scott Noughty Alcohol Free
Looking to lead the global shift to alcohol-free drinking, Thomas & Scott recently launched the game-changing brand, Noughty, a range of delicious ‘dealcoholized’ alternatives to Champagne and fine wines.
Launched in 2019, Noughty is the first top quality alcohol free, organic, sustainable, vegan, halal, low-sugar sparkling beverage, and if that wasn’t enough to seal the deal, the brand is also officially B Corp certified! Voted one of ‘Business Insider’s Coolest People in Food & Drink 2019’, Founder & CEO of Thompson & Scott, Amanda Thompson, is a driving force behind the need for greater transparency in wine production labelling and aims to educate consumers on what’s in their bottles. Noughty’s range of high-class, non-alcoholic beverages can be found in some of the coolest bars, clubs, restaurants, and hotels across key locations in Europe, Australia & North America.
‘Grown from adventure’ Everleaf pride themselves on creating the world’s most complex non-alcoholic aperitifs, with taste that ‘transports you to the natural world’. Launched by Conservation Biologist and bar owner, Paul Matthew, who spent over a year researching plants, sustainable sourcing, dehydrating samples, macerating, and extracting, all to find the perfect blend of complimentary flavours.
As part of their 2023 Dry January campaign, Everleaf have teamed up with Pale Fox Wines to offer their customers a limited-edition Mountain Spritz Kit. Made increasingly popular during Dry Jan’s sister month, ‘Sober October’, Everleaf and Pale Fox Wines decided to extend the offering until January, promising that Everleaf’s vibrant blend of botanicals in their Mountain Aperitif, coupled with Pale Fox Wines’ Alcohol Free will produce a delicious, aromatic fresh spritz.
Born and Brewed in the luscious Lammermuir hills in Scotland, Days Lager in an award-winning 0.0% abv lager that is committed to using only the finest local plant-based ingredients. Launched during lockdown 2.0, Founders Mike Gammell and Duncan Keith spent a whole year researching, innovating, and testing, before landing on their unique brewing process, specifically designed to never produce alcohol.
In 2022, the brand partnered with The Wave Project, as part of their ongoing commitment to progressive mental health practices, pledging to support and fund the training of up to 1,000 new surf mentors across the UK. Not only that, but Days Lager prides itself on being B-Corp Certified.
As part of their Dry January campaign, the ‘100% beer 0% Alcohol’ brand also offered their customers 30% off their first order using the code ‘BEERME’.
As we draw the curtains on Dry January 2023, despite the campaigns limited duration, it’s clear to see how and why the no-and-low sector will continue to flourish.
With an honest and transparent approach to health & wellness dominating consumer expectations, Dry January is an opportunity for people to re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol, improve their health, re-assess how they spend their time and of course, save money. And for brands? A rare opportunity to engage with a unique and emerging audience, experiment with exciting marketing initiatives, and launch limited edition products.
Which leads us back to the big question. January 2024 – To dry or not to dry?
If you’d like to speak to a specialist in our dedicated Drinks practice, get in touch today via 0191 691 1949 or email us at email@example.com