Updated: Nov 16
You may have noticed a growing trend in the adult beverage market: more people are moving away from drinking alcohol. The reasons vary, including overall health reasons, a desire to lose weight, or a pivot to legal cannabis.
But now government entities and other public health agencies are taking more active steps to induce people to reduce their consumption of alcohol or quit entirely. They are no longer focused on binge drinking, drinking and driving, or drinking while pregnant. Instead, they are targeting moderate drinking, warning that any alcohol consumption is harmful and trying to make alcohol less socially acceptable.
For instance, the World Trade Organization (WHO) in 2022 recommended that alcohol should be treated like tobacco, with more restrictions and a ban on alcohol advertising. In 2023 WHO announced that “no level” of alcohol consumption is safe for our health and that the risk starts from the “first drop.” Not surprisingly, this has sparked a reaction or two within the wine industry.
What Does This Mean for Wine Consumers?
We should expect to see some changes in response to these developments. Here’s how the new public health anti-alcohol warnings may affect consumers.
1. We’ll Have to Sort Through Some Confusion and Misinformation
There is always some question about what guidelines are the most current and uncertainty whenever guidelines change. But we’ll also see misunderstandings and errors, so we’re going to need to wade through the muck to determine the truth.
For example, there has been a lot of press, including in the New York Times, Wine Enthusiast, and the Guardian that Canada has changed its guidelines on alcohol consumption to “two drinks a week.” That’s a big change from Canada’s 2011 guidelines, which recommend that women limit their alcohol consumption to two glasses a day; and men to three. Dr. George Koob, The Director of the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, noted in an interview with the Daily Mail that he’s closely watching how this change plays out.
Except this actually hasn’t happened. Canada has not changed its guidelines.
What did occur is that the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) released a report in January 2023 that recommends that the current guidelines be changed that way. As of this writing the Canadian government has not adopted these changes, 11 months later. We don’t know what Health Canada will do if anything regarding these recommendations.
Note that CCSA added to the confusion by titling its work “Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health: Final Report” rather than clarifying that its report was only a recommendation.
If Canada chooses not to change its guidelines and lower the recommended alcohol amounts, it wouldn’t be alone. For instance, in 2021 a committee of experts recommended that the United States change its guidelines to lower the number of recommended glasses of alcohol (albeit less drastically), and the U.S. government chose not to adopt the recommended change.
2. We’ll Have More Transparency in Labeling
The wine industry is notoriously opaque about what a wine’s contents and calorie count. That is beginning to change. In December 2023, any wine produced or labeled in the European Union will be required to include some nutritional and ingredient information on or accessible on the label, such as by QR code.
Ireland has gone further, issuing regulations in May 2023 to require all alcohol products to include comprehensive labeling about the health risks from consumption, including cancer, as well as calorie content and grams of alcohol. Those rules are slated to go into effect in 2026.
This increased access to information will likely catch on elsewhere.
3. The Pressure to Drink Alcohol – and to Not Drink – May Shift
Drinking is ingrained in our culture. It’s often expected at weddings, bachelor parties, and other events. If the anti-alcohol movement gains more traction, there will be less pressure on people to drink in social settings since it will be more acceptable to refrain. It’s more of, as Jessie says, “you do you.”
In fact, there may be pressure in the other direction not only from public health authorities like WHO but also from the neo-prohibitionists making it a stigma to drink.
4. We May See a Wider Range of Beverage Options
If more people opt to reduce their alcohol consumption or refrain entirely, the industry will likely respond to the changing market by offering more varied drinks, such as new mocktails, de-alcoholized spirits, and wine in smaller containers. There has already been movement in this direction. This trend will gain momentum.
5. We May See More Marketing and Incentives to Lure Consumers
The wine industry is already feeling the effect of lower wine consumption, especially by younger consumers. So we may see more events at wineries, better customer service, and the like. Expect to see similar activity in other adult beverage markets.
6. We May Drink Less Than We Used To
Of course, guidelines are what they are: just guidelines. People don’t have to follow them, and often don’t. But they’re there to help consumers make informed decisions, and it’s never a bad idea thing to assess one’s alcohol consumption. This new attention to the topic may well reach a wider audience and prove educational.
We hope that you find this information on how the new public health anti-alcohol warnings may affect consumers enlightening.
Have you seen any changes in the beverage industry in response to the anti-alcohol warnings? What do you envision will occur? Please share! Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. Always feel free to reach out to us with any questions or feedback.
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