How alcohol brands are embracing the rise of Dry January

Some alcoholic beverage companies are promoting low- or no-alcohol drinks, while others are talking about the movement in their marketing materials—even if they don’t sell nonalcoholic products.
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Francis Scialabba

· 5 min read

Ageless wonder Paul Rudd, who plays Marvel superhero Ant-Man, will appear in a Super Bowl ad for Heineken 0.0, the brand’s nonalcoholic beer.

He’s not the only one reaching for an alternative to alcohol these days.

Google Trends data indicates that search volume for “Dry January,” which spikes at the beginning of each year, has grown over the past five years in the US. According to a Morning Consult report, 15% of US adults planned to take part this year—down from last year’s 19%—though nearly three-fourths of previous participants said they would partake again this year.

Awareness of Dry January is also on the rise: 24% of respondents to a Morning Consult survey said they’ve “seen, read, or heard at least some” about the movement, up slightly from 21% last year.

“That is important for brands to keep in mind, because regardless of what we see in those participation numbers, it is a very buzzy conversation and topic in January,” Morning Consult Food and Beverage Analyst Emily Moquin told Marketing Brew. “More and more consumers are aware of it, which could actually mean that they’re thinking about what they’re buying, and maybe what they’re drinking.”

Brands have taken note of the trend in their product development and marketing, and many small businesses and restaurants have leaned into low-alcohol and alcohol-free alternatives in January and beyond.

Cocktails with a twist

Ron Alvarado, co-founder of Ficks Beverage Co., said when Dry January first came on his radar a few years ago, he assumed it was something of a Covid fad. Instead, it became “a mainstay” of the month.

That might seem like a problem for a company that primarily sells cocktail mixers and hard seltzers. But Ficks has been working to capitalize on the trend: It recently rolled out a new “nonalcoholic cocktail mixer” in partnership with Buzzfeed’s Tasty.

Unlike its other nonalcoholic mixers, the drink was intentionally created to stand alone as an alcohol-free alternative in addition to serving as a mixer. It was ready to go to market around the holidays, according to Alvarado, but the companies decided to hold off until January.

Ficks’s sales were about half mixers and half seltzers last year, Alvarado told us, and he expects mixers will make up about 75% of the business this year thanks to retailer interest in the product. “Mixers have had this other dimension added to them, at least at a scale that we didn’t see before,” he said.

Dry January cocktails became a feature on the menus of all the restaurants in hospitality group JF Restaurants’s portfolio last year, beverage director Amy Racine told us.

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About two years ago, “people were already starting to drink less and looking for creative, nonalcoholic cocktails that aren’t just juices,” she said. “We’re always trying to expand on what guests are asking for, so we played into it, and it was really well-received.”

Last January, nonalcoholic cocktails accounted for 25% of bar sales (excluding coffee, tea, and water) at Mediterranean restaurant Iris, according to Racine. The rest of the year, she estimated that they make up about 10% of bar sales, depending on the restaurant, she added.

Drinking socially

January is a particularly big month for Wilderton, which sells “nonalcoholic spirits,” in terms of both sales and marketing, Eric Ariyoshi, its director of marketing, said. The brand spends “disproportionately” on marketing in January, Ariyoshi explained. Its revenue was up 125% from 2021 to 2022, and is on track for at least 300% YoY growth this year, according to Ariyoshi.

“We don’t play on the evils of alcohol,” Ariyoshi said. “We really focus on the positives. When you look at our campaign, it’s all about actually taking Dry January and trying to make it something you do with friends or family as a group. We try to make it a fun, social thing.”

Ficks posts nonalcoholic cocktail recipes on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, Alvarado told us, with a similar goal of trying to make the month enjoyable for those who are abstaining from or cutting down on alcohol.

Even alcohol-only brands are taking note of Dry January. Some, like Crafthouse Cocktails, take a fairly “sensitive” approach with their messaging, the company’s co-founder and CEO, Matt Lindner, said, highlighting the brand’s emphasis on natural ingredients and low-calorie options for those who might be thinking about “making sure that you are making smart decisions when you do drink,” added added Charles Joly, an acclaimed mixologist and the co-founder of Crafthouse Cocktails.

Others, like hard kombucha and hard tea brand Jiant, have tried to lean more into humor while “tapping into that consumer trend and collective consciousness about mindful drinking,” co-founder Larry Haertel Jr said.

Jiant’s social media manager is participating in Dry January, and posted about the experience on the brand’s TikTok.


Meanwhile, some companies in the alcohol category are gently poking fun at the trend. In a Dry January campaign for Tito’s, Martha Stewart presents some “alternative” uses for the vodka, but signs off by saying, “Ah, f*ck it, Martha needs a drink.”

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