Dry January numbers grow as sales of ‘zero’ beers rise all year round

Drinkers still swallowed the equivalent of 40 bottles of vodka in 2019 says Health Research Board

Numbers of people engaging in a “dry January” where they abstain from alcohol are likely to show significant increases this year, according to data from industry body Drinks Ireland.

But it is not just January – sales of non-alcoholic beers, cider and spirits have all increased significantly in recent years.

Revenue data cited by the drinks industry representative body Drinks Ireland show that overall alcohol consumption is falling, down by around 33 per cent in the last 20 years.

Figures from the industry also show non-alcoholic beer sales in Ireland have more than tripled between 2017 and 2021, from 1.79 million to 5.55 million litres, as brewers respond to the increased appetite for low, or zero, alcohol drinks.


The market share for non-alcoholic beer has risen by 275 per cent since 2017.

The industry anticipates that non-alcoholic beer will soar in popularity this year and beyond, as Irish consumers seek more balance in their drinking and avail of the growing range of alternatives.

This mirrors what is happening internationally, with the global non-alcoholic beer category predicted to grow annually by 8.7 per cent between 2021 and 2025.

Other beer loving countries have embraced the trend. Germany is the largest and most developed market for no- and low-alcohol beer, and its market share is 11.8 per cent of the total beer category.

In Spain, no-and low-alcohol beers have a market share of 10.6 per cent. This followed an extensive campaign by Spanish brewers to promote non-alcoholic beers as an alternative beverage for people who are driving.

While this trend is driven by non-alcoholic beer in Ireland, sales of non-alcoholic cider and low/no alcoholic spirits both grew in 2021, by 52 per cent and 314 per cent respectively.

Cormac Healy, director of Drinks Ireland put the change down to drinkers seeking more “balance” in their social drinking habits. “Revenue data also show that overall alcohol consumption continues to fall in Ireland, down by around 33 per cent in 20 years. We see research that young people in particular are cutting back and making changes” he said.

The Healthy Ireland Survey 2021 also found 42 per cent of drinkers said they were drinking less, possibly due to Covid impacts on socialising, with binge drinking down significantly – reduced to 15 per cent of the population compared to 28 per cent before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Health Research Board periodically publishes overviews on the alcohol situation in Ireland, and its overview published in 2011 found that in 2019, on average, Irish people aged 15 and over drank 10.8 litres of pure alcohol This corresponds to 40 bottles of vodka 113 bottles of wine 436 pints of beer

In 2019, on average, Irish people aged 15 and over drank 10.8 litres of pure alcohol. This corresponds to 40 bottles of vodka, 113 bottles of wine or 436 pints of beer. The Health Research Board said more than half (52.3 per cent) of drinkers were classified as binge drinkers. It also noted that one in four respondents (25.3 per cent) reported that they had not consumed alcohol in the year before the survey, with women and those in the 65 years and over age group most likely to abstain from alcohol.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist