USA/UK: Heineken supports ‘Dry January’

Dry January, a public health campaign urging people to abstain from alcohol for the month of January has now also gained support from major brewing groups like Heineken. The movement was first described in Finland in 1942 as part of its war effort. In 2011, Emily Robinson, then the deputy CEO for a U.K. charity called Alcohol Concern, gave up drinking in January while training for a half marathon.  She published the positive results of the experiment and could convince many people to do the same one year later. In 2013 the campaign for Dry January was officially started in the U.K. and has since then spread around the world. According to a 2019 survey already 23% of all Americans planned last year to abstain from alcohol for one month.

Major brewing groups have now started to use the public awareness of the campaign to promote their non-alcoholic beers in January. "We're picking up on the trend of adults abstaining or reducing alcohol consumption, which we see as an opportunity to boost business in on-premise outlets during one of the slower months of the year," said Heineken USA brand manager Meredith Kiss. "With over 20% of drinkers taking part in Dry January, we think Heineken 0.0 can drive beer sales and profits by engaging beer drinkers who still want a beer but who may be resolved for a time to forgo alcohol." The company has even launched a limited-edition January Dry Pack with 31 cans of Heineken 0.0 similar to an advent calendar for every day of the month.

In the UK around four million UK adults try a Dry January every year and the phenomenon has attracted the attention of researchers. Alcohol Change UK, a charity formed by the merger of Alcohol Research UK and Alcohol Concern, has recently looked in detail at some of the outcomes of studies on Dry January and its effectiveness.

Mehta et al (2018) took medical readings from 94 people before and after a month off alcohol, alongside readings for a control group. Participants were moderate to heavy non-dependent drinkers. They found that the group that abstained from alcohol had improved insulin resistance, lower weight, improved blood pressure and a reduction in cancer-related growth factors compared to the control group. Moreover, de Visser (2015) showed that Dry January “is unlikely to result in undesirable rebound effects” and such effects were seen to be negligible. Participants in the study who stayed completely dry as opposed to those who just reduced their drinking level had bigger increases in wellbeing and more improved general health.

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