Millennials & Gen Z: A New Future for the Alcohol Industry

Millennials & Gen Z: A New Future for the Alcohol Industry

October 1, 2022

Written by Marbet Lewis

The drinking habits of Millennials (born between 1977 and 1996) and Gen Zers (born between 1996 and 2009) are causing all players in the alcohol industry to reevaluate. Very different from their older counterparts, both generations have embraced a more sober and healthy lifestyle causing a sharp shift causing alcohol products and brands to revamp efforts. Millennials and Gen Z will be the most significant percentage of the population, and the industry will change to meet new consumer demands. This developing demographic's preferences, behaviors, and interests will ultimately decide the future of alcohol industry owners, distributors, producers, advertisers, and much more.



Millennials – born between 1981 and 1996 – are the largest living generation and age group in the pool. Their spending power is a force that overshadows all others. More focused on healthier living and label awareness than any previous generation before, emphasis on using labels such as “natural,” “low-alcohol,” and “low-sugar” has been the industry’s way of accommodating the Millennial sober-curious and health-conscious market. They are directly contributing to the success of fruity-flavored seltzers such as White Claw, which are labeled as a low-calorie and low-sugar alternative to traditional alcoholic beverages1. However, it is leaving behind a gap in beer and wine-drinking sales from aging generations causing traditional beer and wine producers to scramble to fit in a small Millennial-alcoholic-beverage mold. Part of marketing revamps to meet demand in major beer companies include a new product line of seltzers, low-calorie beer, or zero to no-alcohol beer. Organic wines and all-natural spirits are also massively trending due to this consumer group.

It is also important to note that Millennials have brought distiller environmental initiatives to the forefront of the industry as well, making sure sustainable practices are no longer overlooked2. Committing to going carbon neutral or promoting climate change awareness has proven successful for some alcohol producers in this new era.

Preferring to spend on experiences rather than objects, Millennials have also largely contributed to the rise of craft alcohol tours and local drinking expeditions in search of product authenticity and, of course, social media shares. This generation’s obsession with sharing unique content with followers has opened doors for a new way to spend entertainment dollars — alcohol tourism. Experience-based consumption is a new avenue winery, and craft beer makers alike have invested in to profit from this generation.



No longer the new kiddies on the block, Millennials have moved forcefully into their mid-20s and 30s. Gen Z is coming into focus. This generation grew up in a world of uncertainty, declining job prospects, a pandemic, and concerns around homeownership and are, in turn, obsessed with saving money and being in control. They will soon beat Millennials as the largest and most diverse generation than ever before, becoming 1/3 of the global populace. A report from Berenberg Research found that respondents in their teens and early 20s were drinking over 20% less per capita than millennials — who drank less than baby boomers and Gen Xers — did at the same age3. The report also found that 64% of those Gen Z respondents said they expected to drink alcohol less frequently than any other generation. With their online image always being considered, drinking in public is less important than being in control and, more simply put, not as ‘cool’ to this generation. Rising costs also contribute to the decline of alcohol consumption for this penny-pinching group. Last year, a survey of 16-24-year-olds conducted by the think-tank, Demos, revealed that “health” was the most common reason for young people drinking less.

Gen Z is a generation of stay-at-homers who prefer to play bartender following YouTube cocktail tutorials, giving the industry a new platform to offer delivery services and marketing strategies to connect with these young drinkers. They prefer affordable, ethical, progressive, and sustainable brands. According to GoKnit, a Gen Z insights Platform, Gen Z drinks to have fun and socialize but do so in moderation versus consuming to the point of being drunk4. On the rise in this market are sober lifestyle activities, alternative drinks like kava and kratom teas, kombucha, and more. 



Platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter are forcing brands to rethink campaign and online strategies like never before. Industries are adapting to technology, modernization, and generational consumer expectations faster than ever, causing big waves for business owners, producers, and consumers alike. Modern shopping applications such as Postmates and UberEats reflect a growing demand to meet instantly-gratified shoppers staying home. Open and direct dialogues with corporate entities via social media platform responses, such as Twitter, are also on the rise. This proves a new need for alcohol brands to include digital engagement and interaction in overhauled marketing strategies. 

To cater to these health-first generations, alcohol brands also add herbs, beneficial plants, and other combinations that support cognition and well-being. To meet sales goals beer companies in Europe and the US, such as Anheuser Busch, expect 20% of their global portfolio to have multiple non-alcoholic beer options by the year 2025. 



The younger population is forever changing bar entertainment, menus, and service. The average Millennial and Gen Z consumer has an appetite for next-level entertainment that encourages socialization in-person and online. Live music at bars just won’t cut it anymore. Bar owners feed socialization starvation via out-of-the-box events and entertainment to get these two generations out of the house. Bars are adapting by hosting social-media-worthy competitive and social experiences such as live trivia, comedians, painting classes, plant night, and more. 


Finding ways to profit off a home-body population via cocktails-to-go is crucial to help exceed bar profit margins. According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), more than three-quarters of Gen Z adults (age 21+) and 58% of millennials say they included an alcoholic beverage with a to-go order in the past 6 months, compared with a mere 10% of baby boomers5. To meet the demand for healthier drinking options bars are increasingly serving low to zero-alcohol menu options, including organically curated mocktails (cocktails with no alcohol). 

A tech-obsessed market opting for tablets rather than servers could hint at a new face of table services dining. Large restaurant and bar chains are implementing tablets at tables and bar tops to provide a more convenient way to close-out checks and order food. Tablets often also have fun and games for the whole table, offering various options such as chess, tic-tac-toe, and trivia. 



Based on what’s increasingly trending in consumer markets, we can expect a healthy and eco-conscious future for all alcohol players. Businesses can expect to be held to a more socially responsible standard and should focus efforts on becoming sustainable, nutritious, and convenient to target this demographic successfully. Industry members can connect effectively with these generations by maintaining open and direct communication online using social media platforms and mobile applications. The research also shows restaurants can increase positive customer experience with this target audience by focusing on atmosphere, ambiance, and nutritional ingredients while having quick and easy dining options online and in-person available.

From Boomers to Gen Z – the alcohol industry is forever evolving. Alcohol brands must have informed marketing strategies and product innovation to adapt to changing demands successfully. 

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  2. Managing Generation Y - Millennials. - Advantech Consulting.
  3. Millennials are dragging down beer sales — but Gen Z marks a 'turning point' that will cause an even bigger problem for the industry – Business Insider.
  4. Gen Z Trends and their Effect on the Bev Alc Market.
  5. Generational divide may reveal emerging restaurant trends.