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The New Consumer (January-February 2024)

Data from two new consumer studies provides insights into non-alcoholic beverage consumption as well as LGBTQ+ marketing sentiment.

While still a small category, non-alcoholic wines, beers and seltzers have grown substantially in recent years, mainly due to wellness and moderation trends and production innovation. Plenty of recent research points to Gen Z consumers in particular drinking less alcohol compared to Millennials, not only for physical health reasons, but also for their mental well-being. 

Recent research relating to this trend and the rise of Dry January (a challenge to go alcohol-free for one month) include:

• Most people who drink alcohol (69%), Gen Z (81%), and Millennials (78%) are interested in exploring a “sober curious” or “damp” lifestyle (source: White Claw survey, November 2023).

• The majority (64%) of consumers wish there were better non-alcoholic options available (source: White Claw).

• Consumers said they would be more likely to choose non-alcoholic drinks if they have flavors they like (83%), were from brands they know (72%), had electrolytes (72%) and were low in sugar (71%) (source: White Claw).

• 94% of alcoholic beverage consumers are also purchasers of non-alcoholic alternatives (Nielsen IQ).

• Drizly’s non-alcoholic category experienced a 62% increase in 2023 over 2022, making it among the fastest-growing subcategories across the marketplace.

Also notable, according to alcohol giant Diageo’s “Distilled: A Diageo Foresight Report,” published in December 2023, mocktails and non-alcoholic beverages were trending topics in Europe (up 41% YOY) and in Africa (up 93% YOY), largely due to a significant rise in consumers’ desire to improve their overall health and well-being. It also notes that 78% of consumers think their mental health is as important as their physical health (source: Ipsos).


LGBTQ+ Marketing

After Target found itself embroiled in controversy and negative social media traction by some vocal consumers who chose to boycott the retailer for its LGBTQ+ marketing efforts during Pride Month (June) 2023, the retailer ultimately opted to downplay its Pride promotions in-store and online (e.g., scaling back and relocating Pride merchandise/displays from highly visible spots, in some cases). 

This soured many LGBTQ+ consumers’ view of Target’s authenticity toward their causes, despite the retailer’s long stretch of support, and reinforced how important it is for marketers to get it right when marketing to this community, and all minority communities.

A report from Collage Group titled “Deliver Resonant and Relevant LGBTQ Ads” took a close look at LGBTQ+ advertising and how that community (as well as non-LGBTQ+ people) in America feel about recent ads representing them:

• Most Americans are either in support of such advertisements or impartial. 

• 66% of LGBTQ+ Americans follow influencers or celebrities on social media, compared to 48% of non-LGBTQ+.

• When LGBTQ+ individuals or groups appear in ads, 71% of the LGBTQ+ segment has positive feelings, as does 31% of non-LGBTQ+ individuals.

• While LGBTQ+ consumers react positively toward commercials that attempt to appeal to them, more than half are still skeptical of the brands’ intentions. 

• For those who identify as LGBTQ+, 55% say that brands’ efforts to woo the community come across as insincere.

• 23% of Americans (almost 59 million people) have boycotted a brand because of its stance on a social or political issue.

• Awareness of backlash toward companies that support the LGBTQ+ community is low among general consumers. Baby Boomers tend to be the most cognizant of such backlash, followed by Gen Xers.

• Consumer response to advertising and marketing that addresses transgender and non-binary issues is more muted than LGB issues, though there is room for growth as 50% of Americans think brands should speak up about transgender and non-binary issues.

Other 2024 Trends 

The aforementioned Diageo “Distilled” report also highlighted global trends that are shaping consumer behavior, including:

• Neo-Hedonism: Consumers are re-evaluating how they spend their money, searching for guilt-free ways to experience pleasure in their everyday lives. This is a newer trend, but on the rise (+39%) since 2021, with consumers searching for meaningful and unique experiences over wealthy gifts.

• Betterment Brands: Consumers’ conversations show them to be increasingly eco-conscious, becoming more aware of the environmental and social impact of their choices. Consumers are increasingly seeking ways to align their purchasing decisions with their values.

• Expanding Reality: Technologies such as AI, VR and AR are revolutionizing how consumers perceive and interact with reality. Conversations around the technologies have risen 94% including a 134% rise in discussions of AI-enabled relationships since 2021, the fastest growing micro-trend identified in the report.

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