Gen Z Fuels Rise in Cannabis Over Alcohol
Source: The Brightfield Group

Can cannabis replace cabernet?

Cannabis continues to emerge as a substitute for alcohol among consumers, particularly for the Gen Z demographic, according to a report by data firm Brightfield Group. The findings show that an evolving social landscape and heightened health consciousness are influencing consumers to adjust their drinking habits.

Since 2021, there has been a notable shift in alcohol consumption trends, with Brightfield Group’s research indicating that 60% of alcohol consumers are drinking less as of the first quarter of 2023, a 3% rise from when tracking began.

That fall has been led by “Wellness Seekers,” a group that pursues the latest wellness trends and stress management methods. In the first quarter of 2023, an impressive 72% of Wellness Seekers reported consuming less alcohol, a significant increase from 67% in mid-2021.

However, it’s the rise of cannabis as a preferred substitute for alcohol that marks a meaningful trend. As legalization spreads across states, making marijuana more accessible, 37% of Gen Z consumers said they opt for cannabis over ethanol.

According to Brightfield’s data, 18% of alcohol users now prefer to use cannabis in social settings, with this preference more pronounced among millennials, at 29%.

Traditional favorites, such as tea and soda, remain the top substitutes for alcohol, but the steady demand for innovative non-alcoholic alternatives suggests that consumers are interested in refreshing and enjoyable options.

Source: The Brightfield Group

Non-alcoholic beer has seen a 6% rise in usage among “Trendy Enthusiasts,” a group typically at the cutting edge of social trends. These consumers, along with another group identified as “Better Way Believers,” demonstrate a marked decrease in alcohol consumption and an inclination towards tried-and-true methods of achieving wellness.

So while the trend toward reduced alcohol consumption continues, it’s clear that the cannabis sector is set to benefit. The rise in acceptance of marijuana as a viable alternative, especially among younger consumers, signals a potential growth avenue for industry players.

But the challenge remains to make canna-beverages easily accessible to consumers. Without widespread, uniform regulations and viable platforms for purchase and trial, it’s difficult to gauge the true demand for these products.

That conundrum has become so obvious that many companies beholden to quarterly shareholder concerns have bowed out of cannabis for alcohol profits instead completely, turning initial hopes and dreams on their heads.

Still, the growing acceptance of cannabis as a social substitute for alcohol lays a promising path for innovation and growth – more so for those who have the means to play that long game – fueled by a generation’s curiosity and desire for alternatives to the traditional alcoholic buzz.

Adam Jackson

Adam Jackson writes about the cannabis industry for the Green Market Report. He previously covered the Missouri Statehouse for the Columbia Missourian and has written for the Missouri Independent. He most recently covered retail, restaurants and other consumer companies for Bloomberg Business News. You can find him on Twitter at @adam_sjackson and email him at

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