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Brand Strategy Freshers Alcohol

Gen Z putting the brakes on UK drinking culture

By Emily Lowes, Global marketing director

Raptor Marketing


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October 4, 2022 | 5 min read

New data suggests gen Z are more health-conscious and more in control post-pandemic. Emily Lowes of Raptor expands on its State of the Nation report – and the possibility that gen Z is leading a new kind of drinking culture.

Quiet road in a leafy area

Where does gen Z’s preference for a quieter social life leave alcohol brands? / Steyn Brink via Unsplash

With freshers’ week across the country in full swing for university students, the stereotype of student life would expect this year’s first-year students to be truly integrating into traditional UK ‘drinking culture.’

But in Raptor’s latest State of the Nation Report, which analyzes 18-24 perspectives into a variety of industries, we found that generation Z is actually putting the handbrake on drinking culture – and brands need to pay attention.

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With access to over 2500 UK consumers aged 18-30 and Q2 data from GWI, we can understand who this age group is, their attitudes to drinking and their favorite alcoholic (and non-alcoholic) beverages. Secondary datasets and reports are like gold dust. Hence, throughout the report, we reference over 30 external reports, opinions and insights to formulate a holistic, 360°-view of the market.

Out of all generations, gen Z now has the highest amount of ‘non-engagers’ when it comes to drinking alcohol, and the least number of regular drinkers. Even when you break the data down into gen Z students, it doesn’t shift the dial. 14% of gen Z students say they’re regular drinkers and 20% say they’re non-engagers – with the shift being determined by three key factors.

Image and control

In the era of social media, 49% of gen Z claim their online image is always at the back of their mind. As digital natives, the demographic has grown up with social media as an integral aspect of their social lives, and with the rising popularity of social platforms such as LinkedIn, professional image has become a key area of concern.

76% feel it is important to always be in control of all aspects of their life, and so ‘drinking culture’ takes a back seat when it comes to their online presence.

Productivity and success

Following the pandemic and the crisis in education that occurred due to the movement of learning online, gen Z placed performance at work and university above socializing on their list of priorities.

With many students struggling to engage with their university degrees during lockdown, education is now of paramount importance to students. While socialization is still of high value within student lives, activities that allow them to make lasting memories and fulfill the idea of a balanced lifestyle are viewed more positively than nights worth forgetting.

Physical and mental health

86% of gen Z feel mental health is just as important a consideration as their physical health, and binge drinking is now considered a ‘very risky’ activity. 41% of the demographic even associate alcohol with ‘vulnerability,’ ‘anxiety’ and ‘abuse.’ However, this does not mean that gen Z has given up on drinking entirely. Gen Z drinks to get social, not sloshed, with 36% drinking to socialize and connect, and only 5% drinking to get buzzed.

So, what does this mean for brands trying to engage with the 18-24 demographic? The State of the Nation Report evidences that in 2022, student priorities have shifted – meaning the occasions on which they drink have adapted. To succeed in marketing to gen Z, alcohol brands must appeal to their values and show understanding of their pain and passion points, tapping into socialization and connection as core areas of a new drinking culture.

Read the full report from Raptor for more insights and a fresh perspective on drinking culture in the UK.

Brand Strategy Freshers Alcohol

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