Drizly is an on-demand alcohol delivery app in the United States (U.S.). The app has become a major player in Big Alcohol’s strategy to use the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to market alcohol heavily and increase population consumption.
The U.S. alcohol industry is expected to be increasing their online alcohol sales by 80% during the pandemic.
The U.S. alcohol e-commerce industry is set to surpass China and become the largest alcohol e-commerce industry in the world. This means heavy alcohol marketing to drive higher sales by influencing people to buy and consume ever more alcohol during the pandemic.
This Big Alcohol strategy highlights the industry’s disregard for public health.
The products and practices of the alcohol industry were already a problem for American society before the pandemic. But Big Alcohol’s perverse strategies to increase sales during the ongoing public health crisis has further worsened the situation.
- A study published in JAMA Network found that alcohol sales rose by 14% in spring 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019.
- Another study from researchers at the RAND corporation found that alcohol consumption rose almost 30% during the pandemic, compared to a few months before.
- The effects of this increase in consumption are evident from the increase in alcohol-related liver disease in the U.S. An increasing number of younger people and women – two specific target groups of the alcohol industry – are increasingly presenting with this disease to hospitals.
Big Alcohol and Drizly
Early on in the pandemic the alcohol industry created the environment to drive on-demand delivery through their alcohol policy deregulation campaign. According to a Movendi International analysis, numerous states have weakened alcohol delivery and alcohol take away rules and instituted other measures that undermine alcohol laws. Among these states are Alaska, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin.
After setting the scene, the industry started using heavy marketing of the delivery services. This is where Drizly comes into play. Increasingly many brands of major alcohol companies are marketing within the Drizly platform itself to drive higher consumption of alcohol.
Big Alcohol brands like Guinness (a brand of Diageo), Babe Wine and Cutwater (a brand of AB InBev) have all increased their advertising budgets within e-commerce platforms such as Drizly.
The Drizly app gives access to a large base of people who are mainly using their mobiles for ordering during the pandemic. The shelter in place orders which are applied in many states have increased people’s mobile use and screen time. This means by marketing more through the Drizly app the industry can expose even more people to alcohol promotions. The alcohol industry is clearly exploiting the pandemic to increase their marketing reach.
- Babe Wine spend 80% of their 2020 media spend on digital media, out of which 95% went into e-commerce platforms such as Drizly.
- Guinness more than tripled their budget for Drizly after their St. Patrick’s Day marketing campaign.
- Cutwater Spirits directs people through their social media channels to the Drizly app to buy alcohol.
- Both Babe Wine and Guinness plan to increase their advertising expenditure on Drizly.
Why is heavy alcohol marketing a problem?
There is mounting evidence that alcohol marketing leads to increased consumption and harm. Following are several examples:
- Digital alcohol marketing is positively associated with increased alcohol consumption and increased binge or hazardous alcohol use, as per a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Supplement in February 2020.
- Cross-sectional research evidence suggests alcohol marketing exposure may be associated with young peoples’ alcohol use behavior as per another study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Supplement in February 2020.
- Australian youths exposed to frequent alcohol marketing on social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter consume 13% to 40% more alcohol compared to their peers not exposed to such messages, as per a study published in the City Journal in May 2019.
- Alcohol marketing awareness was associated with increased consumption and greater likelihood of higher-risk consumption as per a study published in BMJ Open in March 2019.
Evidence that alcohol marketing drives higher consumption, higher heavy and binge alcohol consumption is not new to the alcohol industry. This is why the Big Alcohol invests heavily in marketing. With the pandemic most of the marketing and advertising budgets were redirected to digital, social media and e-commerce platforms. A report by the NCD Alliance and the SPECTRUM Research Consortium called “Signalling Virtue, Promoting Harm: Unhealthy commodity industries and COVID-19” exposed how Big Alcohol along with other unhealthy industries turns COVID-19 into the world’s largest marketing campaign.
What can be done?
The solution is to ban alcohol advertising, promotions and sponsorship and to regulate (or ban) alcohol delivery through evidence-based alcohol policy solutions.
Current policies do not regulate alcohol delivery effectively. An investigation by the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) department of the state of California found that on-demand alcohol delivery apps harm youth by delivering alcohol to minors. It is necessary to regulate the fast growing mostly self-regulated alcohol delivery industry.
It is also necessary to focus on banning alcohol advertising and promotions specifically on digital and social media platforms as it is growing rapidly. The World Health Organization recommends marketing restrictions as one of the three best-buy cost-effective policy solutions to reduce harm caused by alcohol products.
The industry has shown that they will prioritize profit maximization even during a raging public health crisis. It is the responsibility of the federal and state governments and law makers to protect the American people from being exploited by Big Alcohol.
Marketplace: “Online alcohol sales rise during the pandemic“