One of the most groan-inducing aspects of the nightly news – or even the “health” section of major newspapers – is the periodical flip-flop over whether red wine is good for your heart. Is it or is it not? Depends on what study has been most recently published. Chances are, if you like wine, you don’t really care.
But you would probably also agree that any “study” which came out claiming that alcohol was part of a balanced diet was suspect at best. Alcohol gets categorized as a “vice” for a reason.
Yet that’s exactly the low to which alcohol advertisers are beginning to stoop.
Who – soberly speaking – would decide to drink for the health benefits? Booze companies are hawking this rationale to try to alter the more temperate drinking habits of millennials. You may have heard the buzzword “wellness.” Taking care of yourself is great, but problems have begun to arise as every kind of company – including alcohol companies – have sought to position their products as part of this “healthy lifestyle,” however questionable the claims they’ve had to make.
Many millennials have had enough of hangovers. They reportedly are spending less money on alcohol than both Baby Boomers and Generation X.1 It’s true that in 2018 alcohol sales at bars and restaurants grew 2.5%, but U.S. beer shipments fell at least 1%, and are 8 million barrels below the industry’s 2008 peak.2 There’s also the matter of Dry January. Begun in the UK, it’s now catching on in the U.S., and has millions of people taking on temporary teetotaler status as the year begins (the better to get those resolutions underway). Trade publication Beer Marketer’s publisher Benj Steinman simply says, “It’s a real watch-out for the future.”3
Thus, alcohol companies are searching for salvation in millennial-driven “wellness” – with results ranging from lower-calorie “spiked seltzers” to a mezcal made with damiana, an herb that’s supposedly an “anti-depressant, mood regulator, and organ tonic” (what variety of drug is alcohol again?).4 There are even beers marketing themselves as an alternative to “sugary sports drinks” and therefore the perfect thing to replenish those lost calories and rehydrate… after a workout.5
This is a #PRFAIL because it’s a use of dishonest marketing to ruin a trend that has honest roots – being more careful about what you put in your body, getting some exercise, and paying attention to your health are always good things. But the alcohol industry – along with many others – are attempting to co-opt this generally positive attitude to sell things that certainly don’t need to be sold under that guise. When everything is about “wellness,” wellness becomes meaningless. And then it’s rightfully mocked and all the benefits that trend could have offered… well, they get flushed away with the consequences of one too many glasses of wine, or beer, or vodka – you name it.
People will always find reasons to have a drink. But don’t pretend improving your health is one of them.
Warren, Katie. “Millennials Are Spending Less Money on Alcohol than Previous Generations. Now, Brands Are Marketing Their Booze as ‘Wellness’ Drinks in a Desperate Bid to Capture the Market.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 2 June 2019, www.businessinsider.com/brands-marketing-alcohol-wellness-drinks-appeal-to-millennials-2019-5.
Schultz, E.J. “Alcohol Marketers Face Sobering Times as Moderation Trend Grows.” AdAge, 22 Jan. 2019, adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/alcohol-makers-face-sobering-times-moderation-trend-grows/316310.
Saxena, Jaya. “Alcohol Brands Have Set Their Blurry Sights on the Slippery Concept of Wellness.” Eater, Eater, 5 June 2019, www.eater.com/2019/6/5/18650893/alcohol-brands-wellness-healthy-wine-beer.