In Belgium, drinking is part of our cultural habits. Whether it’s for a happy event or just in our daily life. When thinking about the typical week of someone who’s living the Gen Y life, the first thing we observe is that alcohol is omnipresent. After school, work, a sport session, on Friday and Saturday nights, on holiday or just when we’re with friends. We don’t really need a special occasion to pop a bottle or grab a beer.
Almost everyone drinks and the one who doesn’t drink is automatically seen as a boring person. You need a valid excuse (well… valid for your friends at least) not to drink with them. That shows that peer pressure is an important factor, especially for people who are easily convinced. Besides peer pressure, social media, movies and (music) videoclips also contribute a lot to the image of cool & happy people drinking their way through life.
Obviously, we drink the most when we go out. But because we can’t afford the drinks in the clubs, we like to pre-drink. This means we all come together at one person’s house and we have a little party before really going out. And let’s be honest, for most of us, that’s the nicest part of the whole evening. We can talk, laugh, listen to the dumbest music with our friends and just enjoy the moment while drinking until we’re ready to go out.
But what about the cliché that nowadays “youngsters drink to drink and not to enjoy it”?
Well, that’s partly true because there are a lot of binge drinkers; people who go from bar to bar at the speed of sound, only to get really drunk. In fact, 1 out of 4 students confesses to be drunk at least one time in the week. Looking at it on a national level, 10% of the Belgian population has an alcohol consumption which is considered to be problematic.
However the truth is, we don’t really drink more than our parents or even the generation before them. We still enjoy drinking as much as our oldies, but just have other drinking habits. We don’t only drink our Belgian beers, we also like to alternate with cocktails or other strong alcohols. Beer is for parties but we prefer other alternatives when we want to enjoy our drinks, want to be fancy or want an Instagrammable picture.
We observe two types of youngsters when looking at which alcohol brands are bought. The ones who buy more expensive, branded alcohol and have to survive on pasta for the rest of the month, and the ones who buy the white-labelled alternatives. So what influences our choice? I’m not going to lie, it’s the price in the first place. But sometimes, there are brands we just love more than others and which are worth their price. We are ready to pay more because of the universe of the brand, because we’ve associated it to nice memories or just because it’s a safe bet.
Still, over the last years we saw a new trend emerging concerning food and drinking habits. You guessed it, I’m referring to the trend of sugar, salt, gluten and soulless food. Due to the online influencers, the clean eating-movement is rising. The success of Tournée Minérale in Belgium proves how much people care about what they consume.
But cheat days are still part of those so said “healthy lifestyles”. As mentioned earlier, we don’t want to feel excluded so we come up with excuses to drink on our clean food-diet days.
However, we don’t necessarily go completely crazy during our cheat days. Since there are always more variations of the traditional drinks, like low alcohol drinks, we can cheat without feeling too guilty about it. In Belgium 2,1% of the beer market consists of those alcohol-low or even alcohol-free beers. We could learn a lot from our neighbors, the beer-loving Germans and the wine-loving Spaniards who are rocking this new trend. Besides those non-alcoholic drinks, beer also gets competition from special (flavoured) beers which millennials really seem to love.
So, is the alcohol sector in danger? No, it isn’t. Even with the latest healthy trends and even if we know alcohol isn’t really good for us, our conclusion stays the same: alcohol is too present in our lives to erase it completely. So to all the alcohol brands out there: let’s raise our glass to many more drinking years!
Mélanie Morales Morales,
22 years old