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The Sober Revolution: Young South Africans Are Drinking Less

  • 3 min read

With increased interest in living healthier lifestyles, especially amid a global pandemic, millennial and Gen Z South Africans are looking for no- or low-alcohol alternatives that will hit the spot, without the usual side effects. With the alcohol ban lifted, South African’s who have enjoyed healthier alternatives may choose a more mindful approach to drinking, opting to cut back in the long term. 

“The premise of mindful drinking is that you actively think about why and how much alcohol you consume – whether it’s out of habit, due to social pressure, because you enjoy the taste or are actively trying to lose your inhibitions. The intended result is not always to stop drinking alcohol completely, but to have a healthier relationship with it,” says Alex Glenday, Director at Brew Kombucha, South Africa’s first certified organic kombucha.

One factor that has played a significant role in the rise of the mindful drinking movement is the de-stigmatisation of no- or low-alcohol beverage alternatives, especially in social spaces. Historically, drinking has been synonymous with going out, making friends, and relaxing in general. Now, the emergence of sober spaces and conscious clubbing movements is changing the social landscape, making alcohol less important to the social lives of young people than it has been in the past.

The growing health and wellness movement has also contributed to an interest in functional drinks, which do more than just quench our thirst. “Health beverages, such as coconut water, cold pressed juices, and kombucha are popular for more than their taste. They can actually provide a nutritional boost to the body and mind. Kombucha has naturally occurring probiotics that promote healthy bacteria in the gut and aid with digestion,” says Glenday.

“Today, we are also more aware of the impact of alcohol on our lives. Information about the effects of alcohol on our physical and mental health is more accessible than ever before thanks to the internet. In particular, Gen Zs have seen the consequences of alcohol abuse played out in movies and on television from a young age – and in some cases, even closer to home – making them more likely to avoid it,” says Glenday.

Another key reason is the growing availability of non-alcoholic or low alcoholic alternatives that actually taste good. In the past, these alternatives were simply the same drinks with the alcohol removed. “These were often subpar and didn’t bring people back for more. Now, we have purpose made alternatives, which look and taste like adult drinks, but are also delicious,” says Glenday.

While most South Africans are unlikely to give up their weekend beers entirely, the availability of delicious, non-alcoholic alternatives offers an opportunity to skip the Monday morning hangover. With the pandemic prohibition providing a taste of sobriety, those who have enjoyed the change in lifestyle are likely to feel freer to adjust their drinking habits, even though the ban has been lifted.