The Rise of Mocktails and Its Impact on Alcohol Consumption Trends

  • April 25, 2024

  • Eyes4Research

Alcohol consumption remains a big business. Beer, cider, wine, and spirit products grew over seven percent in volume across relevant global markets in 2022. According to Statista, the revenue in the alcoholic drinks market is estimated to reach $196.6 billion this year.

However, when it comes to market research, knowing what non-alcoholic drinks are bought can be as important as alcohol drinking data – especially when it comes to consumption trends at adult venues like bars and live events. An example is Red Bull, which disrupted the alcohol and spirit industry when it arrived in the West in the late 1990s (then was accepted and even assimilated into nightlife culture).

Are you ready for mocktails, another possible disruptor that might be permanent? Market researchers should be interested, for understanding this new trend might help understand overall drinking trends in a rapidly changing world with unyielding habits from specific key demographics.

What is a Mocktail?

A mocktail is not simply ordering an orange juice or soda at a bar or rock concert. The name says it all: A non-alcoholic that “mocks” alcoholic drinks by keeping the taste, bite, and even sensory experience of an alcoholic beverage without the effects. This beverage class mimics the appearance and taste of an alcoholic cocktail. They are typically crafted by mixing fruit juices, syrups, herbs, and other non-alcoholic ingredients. 

Here are some examples of mocktails:

  • Frozen Apple Margarita: Same as a traditional margarita, but swap the tequila for an extra cup of sparkling apple juice.
  • Tamarind Pineapple Quencher: A fizzy drink with pineapple, mango, ginger beer, and lime juice, echoing a taste of the tropics.
  • Tropical Punch Mocktail: A non-alcoholic summer party punch with juices decorated with fresh mint and pomegranate seeds.

In essence, mocktail drinkers get a healthy beverage paired with the exotic and even transcendent feel of an alcoholic beverage. They remain hydrated and energized while navigating the dance floor or madly visiting booths at an outdoor festival.

Clubs and other venues are already paying attention to the mocktail demand, with even non-alcoholic breweries seeing an explosion in revenue. Alcohol sales are healthy, but non-alcoholic sales are no slouch. This year, the revenue generated in the non-alcoholic drinks market is projected to reach $1.45 trillion in the US alone. Non-alcoholic adult beverage sales rose 33 percent this year, accounting for a mammoth $331 million. Online, the number was even higher, where non-alcoholic/low-alcohol sales spiked 315 percent! 

Sober business is booming. “Thirty percent of people who are of drinking age do not drink alcohol,” said Tracy Stuckrath, president/chief connecting officer of Thrive! Meetings and Events

But what is driving this trend? Or should we ask “who” is driving this trend?

Alcohol Drinking Habits with Younger Generations.

Health trends come and go, but the reality is that two generations are steering the popularity of mocktails and non-alcoholic drinks: Millennials and Zoomers. A 2018 Berenberg Research report found that Millennials consume less alcohol than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.

This trend is even more acute with Zoomer (or Gen Z): 66 percent of Gen Z consumers are actively trying to drink less alcohol. Stuckrath agrees that the departure from drinking is fueled by the health fixation of Millennials and Gen Z. Still, others have suggested that the two generations also worry that embarrassing alcohol-related behavior can be exposed on the internet and social media.

Beyond entertainment venues, beer and spirit companies should pay heed and perhaps even make a TikTok about it. Zoomers comprise 40 percent of American consumers and wield an astonishing clout for buying ($143 billion). And they are increasingly backing movements like “Dry January” or “Sober Curious,” whether it’s to live healthier or not appear disheveled and babbling on a viral Snapchat post.

The hospitality industry is paying attention to Millennial and Zoomer drinking habits, ramping up their mocktail offerings. A perfect example is Marriott Properties, which has, across the board, increased its non-alcoholic offerings at several of its bars and restaurants – like offering its Blueberry Bliss, a combination of muddled blueberries, tropical juices, and coconut milk.

You Know the “P” Word Had to be Mentioned

Will this mocktail/nondrinking trend continue? Will alcoholic retailers pivot to satisfy demand as in the past, like producing their own energy drinks to compete with Red Bull or manufacturing bottled water to stay hip with the exotic water craze that continues even today?

That’s hard to tell because we’re still somewhat in the pandemic fog. Why is this important? During the lockdowns, excessive drinking rose by 21 percent. Regular drinking also increased (23 percent more) while people stayed home, and alcohol stores remained “essential businesses.” However, alcohol gradually became connected to adverse mental health. Plus, the rise in alcohol-related liver disease and other disorders was quickly blamed on drinking decisions during the latter parts of the pandemic.

Thus, it’s possible that the current mocktail/nondrinking movement could be a reaction to the pandemic. Society is “drying up” as festivals and concerts become places where viruses are an afterthought. The verdict is still out on alcohol and the pandemic, but the younger generations are going for the pause button to some extent.

In addition, drinking trends are not always linear, and disruptions can occur beyond worldwide emergencies. For example, before the pandemic, morning clubbing or morning raves were rising in popularity. These were events centering on attending a nightclub early in the morning, dancing as an exercise, drinking juice/water, and then going to work in an elevated mood.

This form of entertainment/exercise/therapy went the way of the dodo in 2020 as public venues shut down – and it has yet to make a significant comeback. The point is that there was a popular “nondrinking” alternative to social events. Nobody knows if younger generations would have fully adopted morning clubbing and extended it to the nighttime. Now mocktails are becoming a beneficial alternative to traditional alcohol drinking as more embrace healthy living after years of unhealthy seclusion.

Lastly, market researchers should keep an eye on the gradual legalization of cannabis, though definite trends are hard to grasp presently. A 2021 study of Colorado households revealed a 13 percent average monthly decrease in purchases of all alcoholic products combined, paired with a six percent decrease in wine consumption. But it’s still too early to find a clear relationship between cannabis legalization and alcohol sales across all 50 states. 

What we do know is that younger adults are seeking healthy and extraneous alternatives to alcohol while hitting the nightlife or ordering online. That’s something that should be studied closely and not mocked.