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Researchers in Belgium are currently exploring how AI can be used to improve the taste of their beer, which is known for its high quality and long history.

White Claws

Hard Seltzers Are Taking Over While Wine And Beer Sales Suffer

Domestically brewed beer and wine have dominated the United States’ list for most popular beverages for many years now, however, it’s seeming as though spiked seltzer is the new kid on the block, and they’re ready to take that title.

Americans are now reaching for more spirit-based, ready-to-drink cocktails over traditional dinner time beverages. Hard seltzers, or spiked seltzers, have been quite trendy since they first hit the market. People want their drinks to be as healthy as an alcoholic beverage possibly can be, and with zero calories, no sugar, no gluten, and a decent ABV percentage, most individuals are realizing you can’t go wrong with a six pack of White Claws. 

New reports also prove that hard seltzers and spirits in general are on the rise in terms of sales and popularity, while beer and wine are being kicked to the curb, more often than not. Beer sales in the US have declined 2.3% within the past year, making 2019 the fourth year in a row that the beer industry has seen a decrease in overall revenue sales. 

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More specifically, domesticated beer brands, such as Corona or Budweiser, have experienced a 3.1% decrease in sales, while on the other end craft beer sales have increased 4.1% and non-alcoholic beer sales increased 6.6%. Craft beer has become widely popular within the past few years, as the means of making and distributing it are a lot more sustainable compared to domestic beer. However, craft beer clearly isn’t the only new drink on the rise. 

The biggest growth across booze was in the ready-to-drink category. Sales surged 50% last year, buoyed by the apparently unquenchable thirst for spiked seltzers such as White Claw, Truly and Bon & Viv. It’s now an $8 billion industry, with sales expected to triple within the next three years,” according to reports from the International Wine and Spirits Record (IWSR).

So what’s changing in the industry that’s causing this shift in popularity? When it comes to wine sales, it’s about the expense, but not in the way you might be imagining. Wine sales from the past few years have shown that consumers in the US are paying more for premium wine and beer products over the cheaper alternatives of both beverages. ISWR found that, in general, bottles of wine that exceeded $11 were performing well over their cheaper counterparts. 

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This evidence can be used to explain the spike in spiked seltzer sales, pun intended. Instead of paying less for average beer with less ABV and more calories, Americans would rather shell out the money for more alcohol, lighter taste, and healthier ingredients.

Spirits in general, as previously mentioned, have also risen in popularity and like wine, the more expensive the brand, the more success it saw. Smirnoff vodka has been the number one choice in America for a few years, however, this year Tito’s Homemade Vodka, which is about $10 more than Smirnoff for a handle, has taken its place. Tito’s alone has seen a 20% increase in sales in 2019.

To keep up with consumers’ new demands, brands like Budweiser and Natural Light are creating their own hard seltzer beverages, but the key will be in how they advertise. As of this year, White Claw has grown to be the staple seltzer brand, and will likely continue to thrive. Additionally, the beer industry will likely see a continued increase, to combat this year’s decrease, in sales, as now a lot of major beer brands own some of the most popular hard seltzer brands. For example, Truly is owned by Sam Adams, Anheuser-Busch owns popular beer brands like Bud Light and also Bon and Viv seltzers, along with their newest creations, Bud Light Seltzers.

Hard seltzers are clearly not going anywhere anytime soon. As long as there’s a market of individuals who enjoy light ready-to-drink cocktails, the sales will continue to increase, and it’ll be up to everyone else to keep up.


Light Alcohol Consumption Linked with Higher Cancer Risk

It’s previously been reported that no amount of alcohol consumption is good for your health, though the negative effects of light consumption are less severe than the effects of heavy consumption. However, a new study conducted in Japan has concluded that light to moderate alcohol consumption is also linked with elevated cancer risk. The study, which was published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, found that one’s overall risk of cancer was lowest when they did not consume any alcohol at all.

The recent student contradicts previous research on the subject, which has linked limited alcohol consumption with lower risks of some types of cancer. The new study, however, is much broader in scope than previous research that has been conducted on the topic, as it examines information from 33 Japanese general hospitals, totalling 126,464 patients, half of which belong to a control group and half of which were patients with cancer. The collected data spanned over a decade, from 2005-2016, and was controlled for sex, age, hospital admission date, and admitting hospital.

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The research is based in large part on patients’ self-reported amounts of daily alcohol consumption, using the measurement of standardized alcohol units. For example, one standardized alcohol unit is equivalent to one cup of Japanese sake, one 17-ounce bottle of beer, one 6-ounce glass of wine, or one 2-ounce cup of whiskey.

The correlation between alcohol consumption and cancer risk was almost linear, meaning that one’s risk of developing cancer increases at the same rate that one consumes alcohol. The cancer risk was lowest at no alcohol consumption, and one drink per day for ten years increased patients’ cancer risk by five percent. This finding held true regardless of a person’s sex, drinking and smoking behaviors, and social class. The most common areas in which cancer develops relating to alcohol consumption include the colorectum, stomach, breast, prostate, and esophagus.

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In Japan, as well as in many places around the world, the primary cause of death is cancer. While this study is limited to patients in Japanese hospitals, it is likely that the findings apply to other populations as well. Hopefully, this study will help to dispel ongoing myths that a small amount of alcohol consumption has a neutral or even positive effect on one’s health, as cancer is a debilitating and terrible disease. Cancer is not the only health risk associated with alcohol consumption; excessive use of alcohol has also been linked to high blood pressure, mental health issues that affect both one’s mood and cognition, and addiction. 

While binge drinking or other forms of excessive alcohol consumption pose much more substantial health risks than more responsible forms of drinking, many still believe that having a glass of wine with dinner several times a week, for instance, is good for one’s health. As the science surrounding the health effects of alcohol consumption continues to evolve, it becomes increasingly clear that this widespread belief is not based in fact.


South Africa’s Craft Beer Industry Is Booming

Craft beer is defined as any beer that’s brewed by small independent breweries, using traditional, non-mechanical methods. According to the official Craft Brewers Association, less than 25% of craft beer breweries are owned by a major alcohol company, and even in those cases the brewers themselves work independently from the brands. In South Africa, “South Africa Breweries” is the company that has been dominating the entire beer distribution industry since the industry first began in South Africa, according to CNN. However, as this new wave of independent brewing has grown in popularity and blown up online amongst millennials, South Africa is seeing a major shift in it’s otherwise stagnant beer industry. 

According to CNN, craft beer first began its South African journey in 1983 with the first-ever craft brewery location in the Western Cape. The industry remained fairly small until the early 2000’s when more and more of these businesses began appearing, however, the production and market value was still scattered. It wasn’t until around five years ago that craft beer began gaining more traction amongst South Africans. Now, there are around 220 craft breweries in South Africa, according to the Craft Brewers Association – South Africa (CBASA). This number still only makes up about a 1% share of the entire beer industry in South Africa (CBASA), however, it’s important to note that the entirety of this area has been controlled by one manufacturer (South Africa Breweries) since beer first started getting sold there. So the sudden new interest and growth of this more independently owned industry, is quite remarkable. 

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“South Africa went from a handful of microbreweries dotted around the country prior to 2010, to suddenly taking an interest in craft beer. This meant an explosion of brands from garage brewing origins, some of these good, some of them bad, and not many with the packaging technology to present a beer well in retail and distribution channels,” says Brendan Hart, founder of Frontier Beer Co., a craft brewery established in 2016. 

“Craft in South Africa is still quite small, but it does have its share of the market. Younger consumers are looking for alternatives,” said Zoleka Lisa, vice president of corporate affairs at South Africa Breweries. 

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Hart went on to discuss how South Africa has been known for its lager like Italy is known for its pasta, it’s just what’s always been popular. Moving away from traditional consumer wants to something new, young, and refreshing, is always a major risk, hence why it’s taken so long for the craft beer industry to get any traction in South Africa. However, at the same time, companies are aware that as the younger generations grow older and become a new major consumer demographic, moving away from tradition sometimes isn’t an option.

South Africa is also extremely unique compared to European and American markets, as they have access to a handful of indigenous plants and ingrediants to incorporate into their brews. This diversity in potential ingredients allows for independent brewers to have an endless possibility of flavors for their consumers to enjoy. This also means there’s a greater ability for each brewery to have their own unique edge over its competitors. With hundreds of thousands of recipe and priduction options, it’s going to take a lot to slow down this new trend of brewing. 

South Africa has become the world’s 12th largest beer producer in general, and with the global craft beer market earning $38 billion in sales in 2018 and an expectation for that number to grow 14% by 2023 (CNN), South Africa is ready to fully embrace the new wave of beer distribution and manufacturing. 


Sobriety Gains Popularity as Cultural Attitudes About Alcohol Shift

No amount of alcohol is good for your health. Despite scientific consensus supporting this claim, the consumption of alcohol remains a fact of social life for most people, as a night out on the town more often than not involves drinking at bars and other venues. However, young people are growing increasingly aware of the negative consequences of alcohol consumption, which include hangovers, the potential for addiction, and even brain damage and death. As such, and as trends celebrating wellness and self-care are on the rise, business opportunities taking advantage of a growing cultural awareness of the benefits of sobriety have cropped up.

One example is the phenomenon of “sober bars,” which offer the social environment, dining options, and custom drinks of bars minus the alcohol. Geared towards people who want to stop drinking but don’t want to sacrifice their bar-centered lifestyle, sober bars offer so-called “mocktails,” which are elaborate non-alcoholic beverages, and can feature live music and dancing. Oftentimes, sober bars will copy the look and feel of traditional bars so extensively that unless somebody told you or you tried to order an alcoholic drink, you would have no way of differentiating them from ordinary bars. As such, they retain the coolness factor and atmosphere of most bars, while presenting a much safer and healthier alternative.

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For people who are serious about pursuing a wellness-focused lifestyle, sobriety is an absolute must. For one, alcohol is by itself calorically dense, even when present in light beers, and as such threatens to thwart efforts to diet and exercise. For people looking to incorporate activities like yoga and meditation into their schedules, alcohol presents an unnecessary burden, as the lasting effects of alcohol consumption inhibit a person’s sense of clarity and focus. A focus on wellness has become popular thanks to social media platforms like Instagram, where influencers frequently share self-care advice and inspirational quotes, and sober bars are often decorated with the intent of enabling aesthetically pleasing Instagram photos. Sharing a picture of yourself at a sober bar, accompanied by an explanatory caption, is sure to make your post stand out on your followers’ feeds. 

While consumption of many other drugs like opiates and amphetamines is more dangerous, cultural attitudes that normalize and promote the consumption of alcohol make it the leading cause of drug-related deaths in the US. Alcohol is not only one of the leading causes of death and disease worldwide, but is also the most popular date-rape drug, and violence and sexual assault is dramatically more prevalent in environments where drinking takes place, as the drug increases a person’s impulsivity and impairs their decision making abilities. And alcohol has the distinction of being one of the only drugs for which withdrawal can kill people.

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While a commitment to sobriety is often associated with recovering from the disease of alcoholism, you don’t need to have personally had a destructive relationship with alcohol for the prospect of sobriety to be appealing. Being sober during social occasions has a number of benefits that apply to nearly everybody. Never getting drunk means never having to deal with hangovers, and never having to sacrifice one’s confidence in their ability to drive, which is particularly important should there arise a reason why it might be a good idea to quickly leave a party or bar. Without the influence of alcohol, partygoers don’t have to worry about making decisions they’ll regret the next day nearly as much as they would if they were drinking, and gradual damage to the liver and brain over time need not be a concern. Additionally, people who have given up drinking, especially as they approach and enter their thirties, report a higher quality of sleep at night and focus throughout the day, which is consistent with medical findings about the effects of alcohol.

Feature image credit: “Sober Club,” by Flair Candy