Consumers have loaded their home bars with beer, wine and spirits as they are forced to become their own mixologists while restaurants and bars are closed. But that’s all to be expected. Given that, two countertrends seem surprising: overall consumption hasn’t changed, and the number of people who are staying sober has grown in the last two years.
First, while sales are up, an Ipsos survey shows that consumption is unchanged. Just because people stocked up, doesn’t mean they’re actually drinking more often. Think about toilet paper: buying 800 packages at Costco doesn’t mean you’re using more toilet paper. It just means you’re storing more toilet paper.
Second, Americans who drink neither wine, beer, nor liquor has risen as much as 10% since Ipsos’ last survey in 2018. Within that pattern, female-identified adults are twice as likely (65%) as male-identified adults (35%) to say they don’t drink beer at all.
Indeed, the sobriety trend was evident in 2018, in Ipsos’ What The Future report on vices. This trend of not drinking at all has been creeping into the zeitgeist for years with Drynuary, Janopause and similar teetotalist movements. For some, the shift is part of a sober-curious exploration. For others, it’s a more serious lifestyle change. Whatever the reason, alcohol abstinence became such a popular “humble brag” for those practicing it that they’ve become the new ex-smoker that people love to hate. Producers have responded with products to cater to the sober audience including zero-alcohol beer, wine and other mocktail drinks.
But while the sober trend appears to be growing regardless of the coronavirus shut-down, whether at-home consumption sticks might take a long time to understand. Ipsos’ monthly Alcohol Consumption Tracker diary provides some additional clues. Some 60% of alcohol servings are related to occasions and channels that have been dried up by virus social distancing measures. As a result, activities are shifting more to home and less likely festive or related to sports fans. Those that do still imbibe are missing their corner taps.
But even if people are stocking up at home, it will be most telling how and when they replenish supplies. Many of the festivities that drive the big drinking holidays are all but cancelled or postponed for now as social distancing measures keep getting extended. Three of them, Cinco de Mayo, Labor Day and Independence Day come between now and mid-July. Given that people say they miss going to restaurants and bars more than other activities, once the U.S. gets to the other side of this, those home bar supplies could take years to work through.