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How Bars Survive Dry January

Dry January

With January being the start of a healthy new year for most people, sales of cocktails and alcoholic drinks can suffer. The over-indulgence at Christmas see sales fall during this period; January 2019 saw a 1.9% drop in like-for-like sales in pubs and restaurants. To keep business steady during this time, bars now must diversify their drinks selection to cater for this new health kick.

Luckily big brands have caught on to this new hype and are producing low-alcohol or alcohol-free options. With anything from Heineken 0.0% beer to Seedlip Gin now available, there's no excuse to miss out. With the trend rising, beers below 2.8% ABV now account for 3% of sales.

A YouGov poll estimated that 4.2 million people in the UK gave up alcohol for Dry January 2019. This impressive figure shows how mainstream the event and this lifestyle has become. Even huge brands like Budweiser have committed to converting at least 20% of their beers to non-alcoholic or low-alcohol by 2025.

The 6th 2020 saw the opening of BrewDog's first alcohol free bar in Old Street. James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog, said: "Drinkers opting for low- or no-alcohol are in danger of compromising on quality, taste and experience. And that's just the beer – forget about places in which to enjoy it. We are going to change that.

"Alcohol free does not need to be synonymous with taste-free. 'Drink all you can Jan' is our anti-Dry January. Whether you have cut alcohol out or are cutting back, we want to show that alcohol-free doesn't mean compromising on quality or taste."

With the rise of mocktails rocketing in bars, consumers can still enjoy the theatre of a cocktail without the alcohol content. According to Google Trends, searches online for "mocktail," are up 42% in 2019, while "non-alcoholic" is up 81% globally. If bars can offer a more diverse drinks menu, it can bring an entirely new revenue stream. This initiative allows bartenders to up-sell to non-drinkers, designated drivers and dieters. A customer who would have chosen a low-cost soft drink such as Coke or Pellegrino can be up sold a far more sophisticated, luxurious choice instead.

A recent study by BMC Public Health in The Guardian stated that almost 30% of young people (aged 16-25), now identify as "non-drinkers". Amidst the health and social benefits of cutting back, Dry January may be more of a lifestyle change for many people now.

Last update: 13 January 2020 by Sally Burt
Last reviewed: 13 January 2020 by Sally Burt