“The trick is to sell less for more” – industry expert Phil Mellows responds to The Alcohol Issue’s finding
The alcohol industry is reacting to a general decline in intake among younger generations, says Phil Mellows, a leading journalist in the politics of drinking. Mellows has shared his industry insights with Hype Collective after The Alcohol Issue revealed developing trends in student culture, including a fall in the consumption of alcohol and a growing preference for unknown brands.
Producers, he says, have prepared for this social shift.
“This has been going on for about 15 years,” explains Mellows, referring to a decline in drinking volume among students and young adults. “The industry response is to ‘premiumise’ and add value to the drinking occasion – see the new gin craze. The trick is to sell less for more.”
The impact on bigger brands is exacerbated by students actively seeking out lesser-known labels, as revealed in our report. Again, though, the industry is ready. “This follows a broader trend towards consumers – especially younger ones – being sceptical about corporate products and tracking down the ‘authentic’, the local and the artisan, or craft.”
The Alcohol Issue did throw up some surprises, however. Around two-thirds of students interviewed by Hype Collective considered themselves loyal to a category of alcohol, such as lager, rosé or gin. “That is more surprising,” says Mellows. “The understanding is that modern consumers are ‘portfolio drinkers’, choosing different drinks to suit the occasion.”
Meanwhile, ethical values such as sustainability ranked unusually low in students’ buying decisions.
“When you’re out drinking, it’s hard to know what might be the ethical decision,” Mellows responds. “And people will be treating themselves – having an ‘ethical holiday’, perhaps. Drinks aren’t immune from the long-term trend, though, and I have no doubt that ethics and sustainability are playing a huge role in people’s decisions.”