In a December column I suggested that readers accept the Dry January challenge – 30 days of alcohol-free existence. A number of you took the challenge – including yours truly – and not only met the challenge, but felt it had an impact on their health and wallet.
As for myself, I succeeded in avoiding all alcohol, in spite of numerous wine events and tastings I attended (my mantra: sip and spit, no swallowing). However, for myself, abstinence does make the heart grow fonder. I have resumed my decades-old habit of consuming a glass of wine with dinner, with not a tinge of guilt.
As I immersed myself in the ritual of Dry January, I delved deeper into the drinking habits of American generations. Much scrutiny is focused on the millennials. They are the “health-conscious” generation. They will not repeat the bad habits of previous generations. Plant protein is now the favored alternative to animal protein. Soft drinks are the beverage of choice. Low-alcohol hard seltzer is the acceptable choice for alcohol consumption.
In my opinion, the lifestyle of many millennials receives more attention than is warranted. This health-conscious generation, in certain respects, is the antithesis of the free-spirited, excessive-smoking (legal and illegal), alcohol-consuming baby boomer generation. Their lifestyle considers the body a temple, to be revered and respected in all daily decisions.
What is not considered is that baby boomers have decades of life experiences and discretionary income (and far less education debt) to enjoy the finer things in life.
But which generation has the better life focus? The free-spirited 56- to 74-year-old boomers or the more conservative-rooted 20- to 38-year-old millennials?
If it’s not clear, I’m of the pre-alphabet, baby boomer generation, or if we must all have alphabetical labels, Generation W. With that as a point of context, allow me to analyze the habits of Generation Y and the generation being influenced by them, Generation Z.
I recently read a press release from a web-based consumer-tracking company, Criteo, that “Gen-Z and Millennials are constantly seeking products that not only fit into social trends, but also elevate life experiences.”
Hmm, like the Keto diet? “I’m limiting my carbs and increasing my high-protein intake (typically from fatty foods) to lose weight and improve my overall health” is the mantra of these proponents. And it is the most popular diet in the United States – right now.
With these trends evolving, what are the younger generations consuming as their beverages of choice? Many have become “sober curious,” evaluating their alcohol decisions and choices as they interface with their peers in social settings.
According to polling company Nielsen CGA, consumption of low-alcohol and no-alcohol products is expected to grow 32 percent by 2022 from current levels. The beverages of choice?
First, soft drinks. Counterintuitively, retail sales grew 2.9 percent in the past year. Many drinks in this category are high in caffeine and artificially sweetened, concocted in laboratories and mass-produced in factories. Alcohol-free, certainly, but healthier than red wine?
Second, hard seltzers. This category is booming over the past year. Moderate consumption seems to trump other sources of alcohol consumption. Low alcohol, certainly, but healthier than red wine?
Let’s compare low-alcohol alternatives, such as White Claw hard seltzer, to wine.
The nutrition profiles of a single serving:
Hard seltzers: 100 calories, three carbohydrates, 5 percent (White Claw) to 14 percent (Four Loko) alcohol by volume.
Red wine: 110 calories, four carbohydrates, 6 percent (many Moscatos, Rieslings) to 14 percent (a number of Cabernet Sauvignons and Zinfandels) alcohol by volume.
And did I mention that wine fits the profile of millennial preferences: a plant-based product that is gluten-free and low in carbohydrates?
The alcohol in wine is without question a negative component of this favored beverage. Yet, as in all things, moderation and drinking responsibly are key to its craftsmanship, complexity and sophistication over factory-produced alternatives.
You be the judge as you consider your choices.
Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member of the Wine Media Guild of wine writers. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sharingwine.