Are People Really Turning Their Backs on Alcohol?

Juices, zero-proof cocktails or Aperol Spritzes? Image: Fusionstudio / Shutterstock (Aperol Spritzes )

As the first month of 2020 closes, a question remains: Is this the year that a significant percentage of people embrace alcohol abstinence beyond Dry January?

Answering that question would be a simpler task if we could just insert ourselves into thousands of conversations consumers are having with one another about alcohol. But doing so isn’t a feasible task.

Unless, of course, you’re Social Standards, an analytics and insights platform that studies consumer conversations where take place between millions of people: social media.

When analyzing conversations on Instagram, Social Standards can plot connections between topics or trends against products (and even specific brands). They can then learn if a product or brand will benefit or be hurt by a trend.

Give this a read: Social Media Insights Reveal the State of Craft Beer

What Social Standards discovered after analyzing consumer conversations about beverage alcohol throughout 2019 provides insights into what operators can expect in 2020.


While zero-proof appears to be grabbing all the headlines, Social Standards data makes the case that low-ABV is the hot consumer topic.

Over the past two years, social media conversations about low-ABV have increased over 80 percent. That these conversations are taking place month over month show that this isn’t just about the standard Dry January New Year’s resolution—low-ABV lifestyles are on the rise.

One the decline over the past two years? Conversations about excessive drinking and the occasions and activities to which that behavior is connected. As examples, Social Standards data reveals that since 2017, conversations about day drinking are down 22 percent, beer pong is down 20 percent, and the phrase “turn up” is down 19 percent.

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Drinks connected to drinking games—themselves perceived to be connected to drinking to excess—like shots and fishbowls saw either negative or limited growth. Interestingly, the Aperol Spritz saw growth during conversations about drinking games shows low-ABV’s popularity.

These revelations point to consumers embracing moderation over abstinence.


On the topic of games, there’s a difference between drinking games and games played while drinking. Several games played while people drink saw growth in consumer conversations, and as Social Standards points out, these are games with relatively low buy-in for operators.

Trivia saw 26 percent growth since 2017, while pinball saw ten percent growth. But it’s board games and bingo that saw the most explosive increases in beverage alcohol conversations. The former grew 52 percent, while the latter experienced 72 percent growth.

While not part of the Social Standards study, a spirits brand with an interesting take on bingo and trivia is Espolòn Tequila. The brand’s Espolòtería event, which has popped up in bars across the country as part of a promotional tour, uses a deck of stylized lotería cards. Boards have card designs scattered on them rather than numbers, and the first player to complete an assigned bingo-style win requirement wins Espolòn swag. Ties are broken with trivia questions.

Health & Wellness

Social Standards has identified health and wellness as a macro trend affecting the consumption of beverage alcohol. Topics related to this macro trend are finding their way into conversations about alcohol consumption.

Health and wellness topics in conversations about beverage alcohol have increased 48 percent since 2017, capturing double the amount (four percent) of mentions than gin (two percent).

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One major topic related to beverage alcohol is, of course, zero-proof. As far as Social Standard analysis is concerned, consumers currently prefer moderation and low-ABV options to abstinence. However, 15 percent of consumers talk about zero-proof topics (identified as “non-alcoholic” by Social Standards) “repeatedly” month over month. When compared to 2017, that’s a nearly double the rate.

What Does this Mean?

Moderation is preferred to living an alcohol-free lifestyle…for now.

Operators and their teams need to listen to and observe their guests to determine if they’re leaning towards a preference for low-ABV drinks, zero-proof options, or full-proof drinks. We can expect consumer behavior and preference to shift, so a mix is likely the best way forward: have low- and zero-proof options available if guests are showing a willingness to pay for them.

Thirsty for more content like this? Several of the bar and restaurant world’s best will be addressing moderation, low-ABV and zero-proof consumer trends at Nightclub & Bar Show 2020 in Las Vegas. Justin Cross and Rob Hunter of Earn Your Booze will share their approach to moderation during their session “Earn Your Booze: Mix, Shake & Stir the EYB Mindset Into Your Booze Business.” Jacob Halls, president of Craft Beverage Consultants, tackles low-ABV and zero-proof during “The New Normal in Drinking.” And Anjali Kundra and Armon Noori will present “The Rise of Zero-proof & Low-ABV Drinks.” Make sure you’re registered today and add these sessions to your calendar!


Trends Transforming Beverage Alcohol.” Social Standards. 2019.