Changing preferences, priorities, and participation make Gen Z rethink their drink.
Navigating generational consumer trends is standard practice for staying relevant and appealing in a competitive market space such as alcohol. Gen Z – anyone born between 1997 and 2012 – are the latest generation to reach legal drinking status and are already showcasing interesting trends that alcohol brands are noticing.
Gen Z makes up approximately 40% of consumers and has a projected spending power of $150 billion, according to GoKnit, a Gen Z Insights Platform. Data shows they drink considerably less than previous generations. They are more influenced by social proof and recommendations versus traditional branding and advertising. Gen Z also leans towards ethical, progressive, and sustainable brands.
For those who do drink, the clear leading category is liquor. GoKnit’s research indicated over 70% of respondents listed liquor as their go-to option, with vodka leading the charge. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) like seltzers and hard teas/lemonades came in second while wine and beer rounded out the list.
The top vodka brand choices are Tito’s and Smirnoff. Gen Z notes price, taste, and mixability as their primary driving factors. Gen Z males tend to prefer whiskey and bourbon over their female counterparts. Gin has a wide-ranging disparity between Gen Z workers and students, with the former preferring it more over other types of liquor. Tequila/Mezcal is the most popular liquor type among certain demographics, while vodka falls closer to the bottom of the list in those groups.
Seltzers have become increasingly popular in recent years. The top two brands in this category are White Claw and Truly. Gen Z prefers seltzers because they are easier to drink in moderation, come in a variety of flavors, and are generally more affordable than other alcohol types. Another big reason is that Gen Z is more health-forward and seltzers often come with fewer calories and less sugar.
Wine and Beer
While there is not too much variance in types of wine preferred, red wine is the statistical favorite. Wine is also preferred over FMBs by Gen Z workers compared to full-time students. Beer is still heavily favored in the Gen Z male category, particularly full-time students. Lagers are the most preferred type. The most interesting thing here is that beer was knocked off its perch thanks to Gen Z.
Buying Frequency and Consumption Trends
Alcohol consumption data for Gen Z had been trending downward before the pandemic. As with other generations, there was a spike in usage during lockdown. Gen Z still purchases less frequently and spends less money on alcohol overall. As a more financially conscious group, they need their money to go further with inflation as high as it is.
As far as shopping, Gen Z prefers brick-and-mortar off-premise operators compared to using third-party delivery apps with additional fees. Off-premise retailers also often have promotional deals where buyers can get more alcohol for their money. This doesn’t mean Gen Z doesn’t frequent on-premise retailers, in fact they often do and typically drink liquor while doing so, but the research shows they prefer a night in and will shop more in convenience or grocery stores for their alcohol needs.
With consumption, Gen Z prefers to drink less because of health and cost factors. They drink to have fun and socialize but do so in moderation versus consuming to the point of being drunk. There has also been a rise in sober lifestyle activities and alternative drinks like kava and kratom teas, kombucha, and others entering the beverage market space.
Looking to the Future
While it can be difficult to boil down Gen Z’s alcohol preferences to an exact science, the data trends show a decrease in overall consumption and spending. Liquor and FMBs have superseded beer and wine and we are already seeing the effects of the canned-beverage wave take hold with more and more ready-to-drink portable cocktail options. It will be interesting to see how alcohol brands continue to adapt to changing demands and what new products will develop.
Fintech is a trusted source for insights into the bev alc market space. Our blog is constantly updated with new content on trends we are seeing, tips on business optimization, and more. Check out a recent 2021 Beer Industry Review post exploring a similar theme.