Editor's Viewpoint - Dry January: An Opportunity, Not a Problem
Earlier today, I enjoyed a healthy debate on Twitter with one of my peers here in the UK. The journalist, writing in on-trade publication Inapub, was having a dig at 'Dry January', the concept - championed by several charities - of not drinking alcohol for all of the first month of 2015.
“Dry January is nothing but a massive cringe-fest”, read the tweet that sparked our discussion. “The Dry January campaign suggests that this country is filled with nothing but a bunch of alkies who need people standing around cheering and supporting when ordering a lime and soda, to not be tempted into ordering beer,” reads the associated comment piece on Inapub.
The main gist of the piece is that asking people to sponsor you for not drinking alcohol for a month rather over-stated the 'heroism' of abstinence.
This is not the first attack I've seen of Dry January, a push that sails very close to cheesy. The on-trade in particular is having trouble getting its head around the idea, to the extent that another on-trade publication here has launched 'Try January', whereby consumers are encouraged to “try new drinks and dishes and make the month more inspiring and experimental”.
Where these grumblings come unstuck are when we look at the overall alcohol industry's attitude to consumers, specifically when it comes to over-consumption and binge drinking.
Amongst all the efforts to promote responsible drinking, we as an industry are very quick to flag the responsibility of the individual. Witness the UK Government's Public Health Responsibility Deal, launched in 2011 as an attempt to work with the drinks industry to combat drink-related problems. The Responsibility Deal spreads the load among us all and avoids the need (thus far) for legislation.
What Dry January has highlighted is the dismal state of the non-alcoholic offering in UK pubs and bars. That the on-trade doesn't see the concept as an opportunity rather than a problem speaks volumes of its reluctance to bend to the will of consumers.
And, if we as an industry can't at the very least keep quiet about ideas like Dry January, or - hell - even encourage the concept, then our glass is more half-empty than half-full.
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