According to a July 2023 Gallup survey, only 62% of Americans say they drink alcohol, compared to 38% who say they completely abstain from drinking. Additionally, young adults today are less likely to drink than young adults 20 years ago, but older adults are more likely to do so, according to Gallup.
As younger generations move into adulthood, the popularity of “Dry January” has become delegated to the entire year, rather than just a month. As this trend continues, many craft breweries, cocktail manufacturers, and even wineries are producing more non-alcoholic options.
Although non-alcoholic liquor has existed for quite some time, only in recent years have technological improvements allowed non-alcoholic liquor to maintain the majority of its flavor, without any alcohol. With these substantial improvements, the liquor industry hopes to continue to grow in an increasingly abstinent young population.
History & Background of Dry January
The practice of “Dry January” has been a challenge that many people have participated in for decades. However, it originated long before that in World War II era Finland. Aiming to save natural resources that might be used in the production of alcohol, the Finnish government encouraged people to completely abstain from drinking alcohol for the month of January at a minimum.
Referred to as “Raitis Januar”, or Sober January, the movement was a success for Finland, resulting in reduced alcohol consumption amongst the troops and population, which saved money and promoted welfare of the Finnish people and soldiers.
In the decades since the war, however, the idea of a Dry January did not gain traction until the mid-2000s, when it was shared as a challenge for people trying to start the new year off right. In 2013, the first official Dry January was hosted by the UK organization Alcohol Change, with thousands of people participating internationally every January since.
Changes in the Alcohol Industry
As younger generations have moved into adulthood, the popularity of making Dry January a lifestyle year-round has increased dramatically. The benefits of long-term sobriety can include better sleep, positive mental health, lower blood pressure, and reduced risk of liver disease.
In response to this shift, the liquor industry has worked to provide alternatives to alcoholic beverages, while still maintaining that same signature flavor. In Colorado, for example, many businesses are crafting non-alcoholic beers to appeal to this growing market, while others are experimenting with drinks that provide a buzz by using flowers, herbs, and other stimulants like chocolate rather than alcohol.
Keith Villa, creator of Coors’ Blue Moon, launched Ceria Brewing Company five years ago to tap into the market for non-alcoholic beer. According to Villa, the market for non-alcoholic beer is “growing double digits, typically 20-30% every year”. This growing market has greatly benefited the success of Villa’s most popular non-alcoholic beer, Grainwave, which claims to maintain the taste and foam of a traditional beer, except with significantly fewer calories—and the buzz or hangover that alcohol can cause.
Although the sale of alcohol has spiked since the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol appears to be less and less appealing for younger generations reaching adulthood. These trends can certainly change, but it seems only a matter of time until Dry January is no longer delegated to only one month of the year for many. As the alcohol industry adapts in tune with these societal shifts, the future of alcohol in our society remains uncertain.