Alfred de Musset’s “What does the bottle matter, as long as we get drunk” will definitely no longer be popular in 2024. The consumption of alcoholic beverages in France has in fact been divided by more than two between 1960 and 2018 (source INSEE). A trend which can be explained in particular by a young generation wishing to “take it easy” on the subject, but also by a booming range of wines, beers and other non-alcoholic spirits. Unless the development of the Nolo market (for no alcohol and low alcohol) has had the effect of diverting young people from a sector which has always been able to compete in ingenuity to seduce them? Explanations.
Why are young people turning away from alcohol?
Aversion to blackout, fear of aggression, time spent in front of screens at home, cult of well-being and health, reconnection with oneself and others… young French people are gradually turning away from alcohol for different reasons for several years. The OFDT (French Observatory of Drugs and Addictive Tendencies) estimates, in a 2022 study called ESCAPAD, that the share of adolescents who have not taken the step of the first glass of alcohol increased from 4.4% in 2002 at 14.4% in 2017. It even flirts with 20% (19.4%) in 2022, again according to the OFDT.
“The no-alcohol trend is stronger in Anglo-Saxon countries, in New York in particular, but also in Nordic countries such as Sweden,” explains Romain Napierala, Trends & Foresight Associate Director, within Ipsos Strategy3. “What TrendObs, our international observatory of emerging dynamics, shows us is that the temptation to live without alcohol is gaining ground, particularly among those under 30. In a world considered increasingly hostile, there is a real refocusing on one’s physical and mental well-being. Better control of oneself and one’s behavior towards others, in the era of #metoo, also comes into play. »
In France, alcohol consumption among young French people is declining, as is tobacco and cannabis. But it must be put into perspective with that of our neighbors. “It remains high in France compared to other European countries,” says Romain Napierala. “There remains a significant gap between aspirations and practices. Among younger French people, alcohol-free diets are less widespread than elsewhere and are, most often, favored in large cities and privileged environments. It must be said that the norms and representations around alcohol still vary a lot depending on the economic and social context of individuals,” adds Romain Napierala, Trends & Foresight Associate Director, within Ipsos Strategy3.
Dry January: the Nolo is experiencing its finest hours
Dominated by beer and gin, the Nolo market showed double-digit global growth in 2023. Today it is worth 10 billion euros per year, according to the IWSR (International Wine and Spirit Research), a British panelist who studies consumer trends in 35 major international markets. Growth that will accelerate, again according to the IWSR. The agency even forecasts a 7% increase in sales volume globally by 2026.
Arriving later in France, these non-alcoholic drinks are slowly but surely making their way into aperitif time, particularly in the middle of Dry January (month of January without drinking alcohol, Editor’s note), and offer new development opportunities for alcohol producers. Because if in 50 years, alcohol consumption has fallen by half in France, the share of non-alcoholic aperitifs has increased by 400% in the French budget.
Founder of the distributor of wines, beers and non-alcoholic cocktails Gueule de Joie, Jean-Philippe Braud is convinced that the adoption of a healthier lifestyle explains this trend. “Our clients seek moderation, not abstinence. These are people who found themselves drinking alcohol without wanting to for social reasons, out of habit or simply because there was no interesting alternative,” he explains. Just yesterday, two worlds were opposed: drinkers and non-drinkers. Today, Nolo fans – most often moderate drinkers – like Émilie Yana, have other options than traditional sodas or fruit juices.
This former dancer co-founded the non-alcoholic beer brand Edmond in 2017. “I like beer, but I realized that with age and my physical activity, my muscles recovered less well the day after an aperitif “, she says. She then asked her companion and partner Sébastien Dué to brew her a beer with as little alcohol as possible, for her personal consumption. The result, more than satisfactory according to the couple, gave birth a year and a half later to their craft brewery exclusively dedicated to alcohol-free beer.
Does supply encourage demand?
Created with a social approach, Edmond beers grew thanks to word of mouth, with the blessing of a hops expert. “We started following the encouragement of a beerologist working for Bière Magazine,” remembers Émilie Yana, the co-founder. “He tasted our beer and assured us we were on to something. The offer was in its infancy, but we went for it and we don’t regret it. » It must be said that with 20% of French people not drinking alcohol at all, the market for these new aperitifs has only responded to a demand that has existed for years.
“We are in a niche market with 200 references,” analyzes Jean-Philippe Braud, the founder of Gueule de Joie. “The supply encourages a demand which is gradually emerging, also driven by the curiosity of certain consumers. » Sometimes present in the alcohol section, sometimes displayed near sweet drinks, the promotion of Nolo in supermarkets is still done in a random manner. Aware of the commercial opportunity in this market, alcohol producers and wine growers are less and less reluctant to invest time and thus develop new products. “It is up to the alcohol sectors and the artisans of the sector to seize this market and bring the quality of their know-how, otherwise the manufacturers will occupy the place, without guarantee of nutritional and taste quality of the products offered », warns Jean-Philippe Braud.
If three or four years ago, an alcohol-free wine was more heresy than a flourishing business in France, the change in habits and mentalities, coupled with the work of winegrowers more in love with the product than with the intoxication, is about to change the situation.
This article is originally published on bigmedia.bpifrance.fr