There has to be a bit of fun – while that often included wine, beer or cocktails at a Millennial party, Gen Z today is far more sober. In the truest sense of the word: A representative survey of young people between the ages of twelve and 25 by the Federal Center for Health Education (BzGA) from 2022 showed that they abstain from alcohol far more often than young people in the past.
More specifically, in 2004, 21 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds said they drank alcohol at least once a week. In 2021, on the other hand, it was just under nine percent. Among 18- to 25-year-olds, the figure also fell from 44 percent in 2004 to 32 percent in 2021. An international online survey by the opinion research institute YouGov also came to a clear result. According to this, about 49 percent of Gen Z do without drinks completely. That's even higher than the global average for the age group, which is an abstinence rate of 46 percent.
But why is that? Do young people have a higher awareness of health - or would they rather feel the dreary reality with full force? And how does not drinking alcohol affect their lifestyle?
In the noughties, headlines about excessive underage drinking were all the rage. Above all, the sweet and colorful alcopops, ready-made mixed drinks made from a sweet soft drink and a spirit, were criticized. As a result, there was not only a great deal of media coverage, but also broad-based campaigns by the BzGA, such as "Know your limit", which were intended to provide clarification.
A whole generation has grown up with this awareness. But that's not the only reason for the new reluctance to drink. For example, the sociologist and addiction researcher Heino Stöver from the Frankfurt University of Applied Science explains in a ZDF article that the everyday life of many young people is primarily characterized by control. One reason for this is social media. Self-optimization and self-presentation on Instagram are immensely important to young people – and that works less well when drunk.
In addition, many encounters are limited to virtual space. Evening get-togethers, where you can get your first taste of alcohol, are less common. This has exacerbated the corona pandemic. In the current Teengeist study by the Fischer-Appelt marketing agency, around 45 percent of those questioned stated that their social contacts had deteriorated during this time and had shifted to the Internet.
The same study also reveals that in the 14-25 age group, mental health issues are of particular concern: more than half of those surveyed equated physical and mental health. Perhaps that is also a reason for many to give up alcohol. Because the consequences of alcohol addiction are now being discussed more openly.
The development extends to the love life of young people. Dating apps like Bumble and Tinder have recently caught the trend of dry dating. According to a survey, around 35 percent of German Bumble users in Generation Z see an advantage in getting to know someone very sober. The classic first date in a bar seems to have had its day.
More and more users on Tinder are also saying goodbye to the hangover: In an internal app survey, just over a quarter of 18 to 25 year olds said that they drink less on dates compared to 2021. 72 percent responded that they only drink occasionally or not at all. The motives for this step are similar for both apps: Many believe that this is a better way to build a real relationship. At Bumble, around 57 percent said it makes it easier for them to find common ground and talk about what really matters.
On the online pinboard Pinterest, which is something of a trend oracle for Gen Z, searches for the term “original non-alcoholic beverages” have increased by 220 percent in the past year. A development that has also caught the attention of the industry. It is adapting to new consumer wishes - and is also registering increased demand, as Lisa Venghaus, press officer at Diageo, one of the world's largest spirits manufacturers, explains in an interview with WELT.
“The past year has clearly shown that the no- and low-alcohol segment is enjoying strong and increasing popularity. With 72 percent growth in the relevant Nielsen category (target group segments of the market research institute The Nielsen Company, editor's note), the high potential of non-alcoholic beverages is revealed here," she says. Many are open to the new products, but at the same time expect high quality. Diageo plays this into the cards with gin brands such as Tanqueray or Gordons, which have launched non-alcoholic versions.
Venghaus believes that many young consumers would also like more flexibility for situations in which an alcoholic drink is usually served: "The non-alcoholic alternatives enable socializing with friends or colleagues in the early evening." Bonn bartender Sembo Amirpour, the German winner of the prestigious “WORLD CLASS Bartender of the Year 2019” award, confirmed to WELT.
In his bar "The Old Jacob" he was one of the first in Germany to serve non-alcoholic cocktails other than a "Virgin Mojito". Many of his colleagues were skeptical, but for him the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Many of his bar visitors have a similar view: “In the meantime there are really some people who like to order non-alcoholic drinks. The backgrounds are absolutely diverse and can be sports, pregnancy, religion or simply ‘don’t feel like having a boozy drink today’.”
But which creation is particularly well received by the guests? Amirpour has a clear favourite: “I like non-alcoholic drinks that are served with ginger. That's why I love Mr. Spice Guy. It's made with Tanqueray 0.0%, a passion fruit cardamom cordial, egg white and ginger beer.”
He observes that non-alcoholic drinks are mainly drunk in "safe spots", i.e. locations that offer a certain level of safety and a feel-good atmosphere. "There are still idiots in some sections of drinking society who say derogatory language because it doesn't fit their worldview of gastronomy," he says. In the case of Generation Z, which has a growing awareness of diversity, this factor could also be a reason for abstaining from alcohol. Sobriety as a statement, so to speak.
You can read about the trends that Generation Z will use to change the future here: