The Dryanuary fightback

Dryanuary might be good for your health and your wallet, but it’s certainly not good news for breweries, distilleries, bottle shops, pubs and bars up and down the country.

While Dry January could be counted a public health marketing success story, we’re firm believers that you should be able to enjoy alcohol – like processed meat or chocolate or cake – absolutely guilt free, in moderation. Especially in the name of supporting your local independent businesses.

Over recent years, the industry has struggled and we’ve seen various strategies emerge in the bid to survive a cultural shift towards drinking less alcohol, less often.

Give it away

Free drinks seem like a quick win at the value end of the market. The largest portfolio manager of pubs in the UK, Ei Group, are making thousands of free (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) drinks available in participating outlets in January to entice people out to their local. But desperate measures speak of desperate times. Free drinks aren’t sustainable, and they’re not going to solve the wider problem for struggling pubs.

No and low

New products are appearing that are designed to appeal to the Dryanuary enthusiast, with low or no alcohol content. Many pubs and restaurants are introducing non-alcoholic cocktail menus and increasing their soft drink offering beyond the usual suspects. Innovations in this area are seeing varying levels of success, but more choice and better quality options can only be a good thing from a consumer point of view. 

New, new, new

As craft beer has risen in popularity, breweries are going to greater lengths to stand out, eternally chasing extreme and outlandish flavour combinations to the point that it’s become an inside joke in the trade. The same can be seen in wine and spirits, with releases like blue and bright pink wine from Gik Live and shelves full of fruity, pink and colour-changing gins. Self-described ‘online supermarket for craft beer’ Honest Brew are not the only ones calling for a more sustainable, quality-over-quantity approach to new releases.

Tryanuary

‘Tryanuary’ is the nationwide campaign, founded in 2015, to encourage punters to head to their local pub or bar to try something new in January. By putting the emphasis on experimentation and stepping out of your comfort zone, retailers are attempting to capture that fresh-start feeling that comes with the new year. With 49% of millennials saying the main reason they go out to a bar is try a new drink, and more of us willing to fork out for the more expensive option if we’re only having one instead of three or four, it’s a strategy that just might work.

To what end?

Over the longer term, it’s diversification that stands to help struggling pubs and bars most. Those that haven’t already turned their focus to food are going down a number of routes, from coffee and cake to co-working spaces. Taking back the mantle of the community hub and finding ways to make the venue a useful and welcoming space for people in the local area is the ultimate goal – to put a human connection back into the heart of our pubs.