The Sober Curiosity Trend

22 August 2019 By Lauren Beck

If you enjoy a cocktail or two, you’re certainly not alone. The yachting industry is packed with events and charters where Champagne and booze flows like water and it does seem that crew like to adjourn to the nearest bar to have a good time and unwind during downtime. But if alcohol is not your scene, you don’t have to feel quite so alone — a growing “sober curiosity” movement is gathering steam, so if you’re looking to eliminate or cut down on your consumption, take heed.

“There is a big shift in the world in relation to drinking — [it’s] a fascinating topic,” says Jasmin Rutter, a former chief stewardess who now resides in New Zealand and works with Seedlip, the world’s first non-alcoholic spirits. “The move to no alcohol is a huge trend globally as there is growing interest in health and wellness,” Rutter says. “Also a trend globally is the addition of low ABV drinks on menus.” She points out that it’s good for host responsibility — customers are not getting drunk quickly, and they can still partake in delicious, complex drinks.

Rutter explains that she views the shift as primarily one towards more health and wellness. “Wellness is a global movement — you can see it in restaurants and the growing interest in plant-based food, vegan, and vegetarian options,” she says. “The vegetarian option is no longer just a single page at the back of the menu.” As these cuisines and lifestyles rise to the forefront, alcohol consumption should form a natural part of wellness discussions. Studies have demonstrated that even eliminating alcohol for just a month can have significant health benefits — weight loss, better sleep, lower blood pressure and triglycerides, a healthier liver, better mental clarity — you could even better your sex life.

The second driving factor of this trend, Rutter believes, are millennials. “They’re just not drinking as much,” she says. “One thing I’ve heard is that they don’t like to feel out of control — you can still go out and drink low-alcohol beer and have a good time.” As Rutter shared, some crew in their 30s and 40s have claimed to have felt pressure to go out and drink — “millennials don’t feel that pressure,” she says.

According to one 2017 article on the Forbes site, “For millennials today, it’s become somewhat of a faux pas to drink. While our parents’ generation considered booze cool, we think it the opposite. Instead, connection, authenticity, and mindfulness are what’s catching on, and as a result, producing many benefits,” writes Jules Schroeder.

A 2018 BMC Health analysis found, “Non-drinking among young people has increased over the past decade in England…” although they do not specify why. Between 2005 and 2015, rates of non-drinking increased from 18 percent in 2005 to 29 percent in 2015.

IWRS, which collects and reports data on the alcoholic beverage market, issued a press release earlier this year stating that low- and no-alcohol products are on the rise and no-alcohol brands are growing. “Growth of no-alcohol beer is expected at 8.8%, and low-alcohol beer at 2.8%. No-alcohol still wine is forecasted at 13.5%, and low-alcohol still wine at 5.6%. Growth of no-alcohol mixed drinks is predicted at 8.6%,” the release stated.

When Rutter was approaching liquor stores in New Zealand about stocking Seedlip products, she was unsure of her reception, only to have one manager noting that they had been noticing a decrease in alcohol purchasing in the 18-24-year-old age range. (Note: the drinking age is New Zealand is 18.)

The groundswell is obvious. And along with that comes interest from the big brands, who want to cater to all demographics — more beer brands are breaking into the zero-alcohol market. Heineken 0.0 was introduced to the U.S. in January 2019 and joins Peroni Libera and Guinness Zero. Even O’Doul’s, which has been a non-alcoholic mainstay for almost 30 years, got a makeover in 2018 to make it more appealing to younger drinkers. Coca-Cola also introduced a non-alcoholic cocktail concept — Bar None, with its Sangria, Bellini Spritz, Dry Aged Cider, and Ginger Mule flavors — in 2019. Pernod Ricard will be distributing Cedars, an alcohol-free “alt-gin,” in the UK and Campari sells an alcohol-free aperitif called Crodino. There’s even an option for Scotch as Whyte & Mackay is embracing the low(er) alcohol trend with its new offering coming in at 21.5 percent ABV spirit from its usual 40 percent ABV.

Rutter shares that she could have done so much more with today’s nonalcoholic options when she was still working full-time as crew as her vessel’s owner — an avid diver — would closely monitor his alcohol consumption to ensure he’d be able to dive without issue. As Rutter points out, there were always guests on her boats who looked for nonalcoholic options, for whatever reason. Even now, “I have had so many crew connect with me on Insta asking where they can get nonalcoholic drinks,” she says. “They do fit really well on superyachts.” Now it’s just a little easier to offer cool, custom drinks…sans alcohol.

With more and more low- or no-alcohol drinks and mixes on the market, you can still join in at the bar without feeling left out. “You want to get off the boat to socialize and going to a bar or restaurant is sometimes the easiest option,” Rutter says. “Drinking low- or non-alcoholic options probably has a placebo effect — you can still be involved, socialize, and relax, but then you can still get up early and go for a run the next day. It’s such a better way to live.”