A benign consequence of this generational shift is that U.S. teenagers on average drink less than they did a decade ago. Only 20.3% of Americans engaged in underage drinking in 2015, according to the latest issue of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, down from roughly 28.2% in 2005. Increased pot smoking has taken some of the slack.
This trend isn’t completely new. Health-conscious millennials had already started to imbibe fewer but better-quality drinks. Producers have consequently got used to “premiumization” strategies in the developed world: They drive sales growth by pushing up prices rather than pushing unit sales.
But the decline in underage drinking since the advent of smartphones is more dramatic. Unless stay-at-home teens suddenly blossom into wild 20-somethings, it could signal a gear shift in consumer tastes that companies will need to anticipate and adapt to.