6 charts to satisfy your curiosity about sober curious consumers
May 11th, 2023, Hoang Nguyen

6 charts to satisfy your curiosity about sober curious consumers

The sober curious movement is a growing trend among consumers seeking to replace alcohol with non-alcoholic beverages.

Download YouGov’s Non-Alcoholic Beer Report 2023 for the latest insights into what’s driving the shift to non-alcoholic beer

Data from YouGov Profiles — an advanced audience intelligence tool measuring consumer attitudes and behaviors — reveals that consumption of non-alcoholic beers, wines and spirits has grown year over year (albeit marginally) in the US from 2021 (7%) to 2022 (8%).

And across the last 30 days (from May 2023), 9% of US adults say they consumed these non-alcoholic alternatives at least once a week (i.e., representing sober curious consumers), making up a potential market of more than 23 million people.

Even with this growing trend, YouGov data indicates there’s still plenty of staying power for traditional types of alcohol. That’s because people who consume non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits are also buying standard alcohol.

This insight gives alcohol brands several opportunities for growth among this audience and will be the focus of this consumer analysis.

In this piece, we will explore the sober curious audience’s drinking and shopping habits. Continue reading to gain a better understanding of the mindset of non-alcoholic drinkers, including:

  • Who they are
  • Their favorite types of alcohol and what types of drinkers they are
  • The alcohol brands they are most likely to consider
  • The grocers and types of liquors stores they tend to shop with

Curious about the sober curious?

One of the best ways to resonate with potential customers is to use segmented audience data to guide a marketing strategy. This method can unlock insights into what makes an audience unique and uncover new opportunities among a niche consumer group.

Demographic differences abound when looking at how sober curious consumers compare to alcohol drinkers overall.

We see that sober curious consumers are significantly more likely to be Gen Z (12% vs. 5% of all drinkers) and millennials (62% vs. 33%). The sober curious movement tends to be less popular with older generations, although roughly a fifth of sober curious consumers are Gen X (19%).

Looking at other core demographics reveals that this group is more likely to be comprised of men (60% vs. 52%), city dwellers (56% vs. 36%) and those who earn less than $50,000 a year in total household income (40% vs. 36%).

Favorite types of alcohol and why they drink

As an audience, most sober curious consumers say they also consume or buy alcohol (67%).

We asked sober curious consumers about the types of alcohol they drink, and several categories hold near equal measures of popularity among this group.

Domestic beers brewed within the US (63%) are the leading type of alcohol consumed by this group but wines (62%), imported beers (61%), ready to serve cocktails (61%), sparking wines (61%), craft beers (60%) and flavored malt beverages (60%) are just as popular.

Sober curious consumers indicate they also like liquors such as vodka (58%), rum (58%), tequila (58%) and gin (56%). Whiskeys are also popular among this group including bourbon (55%), single malt scotch (55%), and blended scotch (54%).

Hard seltzers also earn a notable mention, especially as sober curious consumers over-index in their consumption of this type of alcohol when compared to alcohol drinkers overall (52% vs. 47%).

When do sober curious drinkers drink?

So, now that we’ve established what people in this segment drink, let’s dig into the occasions they’re likely to be imbibing. For this part, we’ll compare sober curious consumers against alcohol drinkers to identify any standout moments that differentiate the groups.

Sober curious consumers are most likely to identify as social drinkers, with two in five (39%) saying they typically drink at parties or if there’s a small get-together. Many also say they drink only during special occasions such as holidays or birthdays (29%). Sober curious consumers are less likely to be social and special occasions drinkers when compared to overall drinkers, however (44% and 35%, respectively).

This group is just as likely as all drinkers to say they only drink on the weekends (27% vs. 26% of all drinkers), on most days (10% vs. 9%) or anytime (5% vs. 5%).

The one occasion that sober curious consumers over-index in their propensity to drink is after work. More than a fifth (22%) of these consumers say they enjoy a drink most evenings during the week, compared to 18% of all drinkers.

Which beer
and spirit brands are they considering?

In the last few years, several beer and liquor brands have branched out from their traditional offerings to expand into ready-made cocktails and it will be increasingly important to monitor consumer awareness and consideration for the various offerings in the competitive alcohol marketplace.

Data from YouGov BrandIndex — which monitors consumer perceptions towards brands daily — reveals over a quarter (27.4%) of sober curious consumers would consider buying Corona the next time they are in the market for beer or hard seltzers. Heineken (22.5%), Guinness (20.3%), Bud Light (18.8%) and Coors Light (18.3%) are other highly considered beer brands among this group.

Several liquor brands are also popular among this sober curious audience, with vodka brand Smirnoff (23%) being the most considered. Four whiskey brands make it into the top 10 most considered spirit brands including Crown Royal (20.3%), Jack Daniel’s (19%), Fireball (18.8%), and Jameson (16.9%).

Where are the sober curious getting their alcohol?

In this section, we’ll look at the types of locations sober curious consumers are buying alcohol to consume at home. The data reveals some notable differences in where sober curious consumers are sourcing their drinks compared to drinkers overall.

For example, two of the most popular locations amongst both groups are, unsurprisingly, liquor stores and grocery stores. Roughly a third of sober curious consumers buy their alcohol from a liquor store, but at a significantly lower rate than all drinkers (32% vs. 54%). The same can be said of the propensity to shop at grocery stores for alcohol (23% vs. 46%).

There are several purchase locations that sober curious consumers are more likely to be buying alcohol from, however. Over a quarter shop at mass retailers like Target or Walmart and over-index in their propensity to do so compared to drinkers overall (26% vs. 22%).

The sober curious segment is also significantly more likely to be getting their alcohol from drug stores (18% vs. 12%), convenience stores (17% vs. 14%) large specialty/warehouse liquor stores (16% vs. 13%) and specialty liquor shops (14% vs. 10%).

The online marketplace for liquor also holds a strong level of appeal to sober curious consumers when compared to drinkers overall.

This includes delivery apps such as Drizly or Instacart (12% vs. 5%), online retailers such as UpTownSpirits, Target.com or TotalWine.com (11% vs. 7%), and subscription services like uOpen or Craft Whiskey Club (7% vs. 4%).

Overall, the sober curious audience represents a growing market for non-alcoholic wines, beer and spirits but YouGov data shows there’s also countless opportunities for alcohol brands as well. By understanding the group's motivations, preferences and behaviors, marketers working in the alcohol sector can effectively target this audience with products and messaging that resonates with their values and lifestyles.

Download YouGov’s new Non-Alcoholic Beer Report 2023 to learn:

  • Who is drinking non-alcoholic beer?
  • What are their diet and fitness habits?
  • How do they spend their time?
  • Which mainstream beer brands do non-alcoholic beer drinkers like?

Make smarter business decisions with better intelligence. Understand exactly what your audience is thinking by leveraging our panel of 20 million+ members. Speak with us today.

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Photo by Kobby Mendez on Unsplash