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13 Jun 2024

Moderation nation: A quarter of UK adults ‘zebra striping’ on every pub visit

Moderation nation: A quarter of UK adults ‘zebra striping’ on every pub visit

A quarter of UK drinkers are alternating between alcoholic and alcohol-free drinks when they visit pubs and bars, according to a new industry report produced by research consultancy KAM and alcohol-free beer brand Lucky Saint.

The new report, ‘2024 Low and No: Drinking Differently’ launches this week looking at evolving drinking habits across the UK, with the clearest indication yet that the UK is a nation of moderators.

Historically seen as the reserve of designated drivers, we’re now seeing a significant number of people incorporating alcohol-free drinks into occasions they are also drinking alcohol. A quarter of the UK population are moderating their alcohol consumption through the practice of ‘zebra striping’ - when an individual alternates between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks within a single visit.

When you include situations where an individual is combining alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks whilst not necessarily ‘zebra striping’, this figure rises to 2 in 3 UK adults (78% of 18–24-year-olds).

Moderation of alcohol is now a year-round habit for UK adults, the report finds. 3 out of 4 UK adults who drink alcohol, have said they are currently actively moderating their consumption of alcohol across 2024. Backed up by last year’s sales data, many Brits moderating during the summer months as during the festive season and Dry January, boding well for the big summer of sport ahead. (Circana BWS all outlets 52wk to w/c 26.08.23)

A notable decline in the number of UK adults consuming alcohol more than once a month has been reported, with the figure dropping to 88% in 2024, down from 93% in 2023 (95% in 2022). This coincides with 11m UK adults (16% of UK adults) trying low and no alcohol beer for the first time in the last 12 months.

According to KAM Insights, more than 1-in-5 18-24s claim to not drink alcohol, the highest of any age group. The report also found that 53% of 18–24-year-olds report visiting a pub or bar once a week or more.

With over 1 in 3 pubs visits by UK adults being alcohol-free, the report highlighted how the UK’s love for the pub continues to endure. The figures show that whilst younger people’s consumption of alcohol declines, the pub remains cemented as the place for social connection. There is a clear demand from younger people for quality alcohol-free options, with 68% saying they have left a venue early or disappointed due to poor low & no options, in the last 3 months.

The report also showed the sway a non-drinker can have on the choice of venues. 65% of UK adults say non-drinkers in their group influence the choice of venue, an increase from 46% in 2023. The figure in 2024 is higher amongst 18–24-year-olds, at 85%.

As drinking habits change, moderation is becoming part of everyday life. We no longer see moderation as solely tied to specific occasions or weekdays. Instead, the most regular occurrence of moderation is during weekends (31% of UK adults vs. 27% weekdays, 17% celebratory events, 11% Dry January).

As alcohol-free drinks gain in popularity and emerge in different areas including major supermarket lunchtime meal deals, the research highlights the UK’s attitudes to them in different settings. The report found that 76% of UK adults find it acceptable for a colleague to drink alcohol-free beer at their desk at work, with this rising to 85% amongst 18-24s.

Katy Moses, MD at KAM said:

“Increasing numbers of UK adults are actively moderating their alcohol consumption, whether driven by a desire to improve their physical or mental wellness or to save money. Active moderation (where people are actively changing their behaviour in order to consume less alcohol) is happening across all age groups and all days of the week – 1-in-4 UK adults say they employ tactics to moderate their alcohol consumption to some extent.

What’s key, however, is that a decrease in alcohol consumption doesn’t mean a decrease in the demand for great experiences in pubs, bars and restaurants. People don't want to miss out on all the occasions where alcohol is normally present, going to the pub with friends, celebrating a birthday, enjoying a beer while watching sport, for example. The research identified that many are drinking differently now when they go out and embracing new moderation tactics such as alternating between alcoholic and alcohol-free drinks in the same evening, known as zebra striping. The future of socialising in the UK will certainly be less centred around alcohol.”

Luke Boase, founder of Lucky Saint, said:

“This report shows that the way people are moderating is continuing to evolve. Alongside traditional moderation moments like Dry January, people are seeking to drink less year-round, and even alternating alcoholic and alcohol-free drinks on a night out.

After thousands of years of centring social occasions around drinking – be it a pint of beer down the pub or a glass of champagne to mark a special occasion - we’re seeing a rapid cultural shift in attitudes towards alcohol. Today, it’s exciting to see the continued rise of moderation, the way people are incorporating alcohol-free drinks in their lives, and the emergence of zebra striping.

There is a great opportunity for alcohol-free drinks to have a huge positive impact on the health of the nation, and the report shows that continuing to improve the availability and visibility of quality alcohol-free options will be critical in making that happen.”

The full report is available here:
https://kaminsight.com/insights/low-and-no-2024/
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