Consumer research snapshot: Gen Z tends to drink less

Only between 18% to 20% of legal drinking age and under 28 years old Americans said they regularly drank beer, wine or spirits.
Elizabeth Christenson
Editor, Retail Leader
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U.S. alcohol consumption per capita has been trending steadily upward for the past several years, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. However, in the 1970s, the amount of alcohol consumed in the U.S. was higher than today. The share of U.S. drinkers in the 1970s comprised 70% compared to 60% today. Still, overall the U.S. has far fewer drinkers than many European countries, according to Statista.

Comparing generations, Gen Z gravitate toward alcohol beverages less, Statista Consumer Insights data shows. Only between 18% to 20% of Americans of legal drinking age and under 28 years old said they regularly drank beer, wine or spirits. Among Millennials who were born between 1980 and 1994, alcohol consumption was much higher – especially for beer and wine, at 31 and 30%, respectively, of respondents consuming the beverages regularly, Statista reported.

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In general, older Americans tend to drink less. Numbers are comparable with Gen Z consumption patterns for Gen X (born 1965-1979) and the Baby Boomer generation (born 1959-1964). 

The exception is beer, a favorite among all generations before Gen Z. Recently Drizlyreported lager, specifically, is trending in 2023, making up 42% of beer share overall compared to the same period in 2022. Lager subcategories – including light lagers, American-style lagers, pilsners, and pale lagers – have all seen significant growth over the same period, indicating consumers are returning to classic drinks at the expense of the subcategories that have garnered much attention in recent years, such as hard seltzers and IPAs.

“The declining share of hard seltzer in the beer category is certainly playing a role in the share gains for lager, particularly light lager, which has regained its position this year as the top-selling beer subcategory on Drizly,” said Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. Paquette, noting hard seltzer share has declined to 17.5% of beer share in 2023 to date, down from 19.8% in 2022.

Hard seltzer is trendy among Gen Zers and Millennials and not really among older consumers, showing that Gen Z's consumption might not be simply decreasing but rather shifting, Statista reported.