Irish Daily Mirror


Global shift towards cleaner living means more are embracing alcohol-free drinks

- BY BARBARA MCCARTHY news@irishmirro­

DRINKING has been part of the Irish identity for so long, many of us thought we’d never lose our love of the booze.

But times move on and a global shift towards cleaner living, changing societal norms and alcohol awareness have ushered in a new era for socialisin­g in Ireland.

Rather than abstain completely, we’re embracing non-alcoholic alternativ­es.

In Ireland, non-alcoholic beer sales tripled between 2017 and 2021. That’s a market share increase of 275%, rising from 0.4% to 1.5%.

Oisin Davis, partner at the Virgin Mary in Dublin, the first non-alcoholic bar in Ireland and Europe, said: “Ireland is home to a sizable chunk of non-drinkers.”

Mr Davis has 25 years experience in the hospitalit­y and drinks industry and is the director of Great

Irish Beverages, which promotes Irish-made

CHOICE Selection of alcohol-free beverages drinks globally. He says the tee-total market has always been there.

Mr Davis added: “When the Virgin Mary opened in 2019 around 25% of the adult Irish population didn’t drink. That’s a lot of people.

“For years they didn’t have many options beyond Kaliber, a non-alcohol lager brewed by Guinness.

“What’s changed is the selection of decent non-alcohol options from beers to cocktails available in recent years.

“The dawn of the 0.0 Heineken was game-changing and other drinks companies soon followed with nonalcohol­ic versions including Guinness and other big brands.

“Bar and restaurant owners have all taken in no-alcohol products, some more begrudging­ly than others.”

The days of going to the pub and trying to hide not drinking for medical reasons or personal matters are over. Mr David said: “Now there’s no need to explain your choice. It is far more socially acceptable to not imbibe than it once was.

“Generation Z — those in their 20s — drink less than their parents and are more discerning about what and when they drink.

“I’ve borne witness to that. When we opened the Virgin Mary Bar in 2019, people would walk in not knowing it was alcohol-free. The young ones would be more likely to stick around than the more seasoned among us, who run to the next pub.”

But Mr Davis said there are other reasons we are embracing alcohol-free choices because we’re aware we need a break from Ireland’s drink culture.

He added: “You often see people taking breaks from booze. Some are saving up for something, others have some fitness goals.

“Maybe they’re planning a big festival the following month and know they will overindulg­e then.”

Internatio­nally, people are embracing cleaner living, with the market in nonalcohol­ic beverages predicted to account for 20% to 30% of the drinks market, which is a half a trillion euro.

Stephen Dillon founded Ireland’s only dedicated

craft beer brewery Quiet Noise in Drogheda in 2022.

He said: “I worked in the alcohol market for a long time and recognised a seismic shift. It was clear that younger Irish people weren’t drinking as much as their parents, but we’re also targeting the middle-aged drinker, who might like a few pints on a night out, but also likes cycling, hiking and swimming now.

“These activities aren’t conducive to hangovers. People are aware of their health and investing in their hobbies.

“Our drinking habits are changing and we’re changing with them.”

He points out a 0.0 night out is cheaper, regardless.

Mr Dillon said: “You’re likely to drink less in volume. The chances of drinking half a dozen non-alcoholic drinks are low, so there won’t be a massive hole in the pockets of consumers.”

 ?? ?? HEALTHY OPTIONS Oisin Davis mixes a drink at the Virgin Mary bar in Dublin
HEALTHY OPTIONS Oisin Davis mixes a drink at the Virgin Mary bar in Dublin

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