The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Lessons from lockdown – ‘no, low and slow’ is still the way to go

Low and Slow

Bridget MacDonald, Executive Director, NZ Alcohol Beverages Council, shares her insights into lessons learned from the COVID-19 lockdown.

We’re slowly, but surely, making our way through the Alert Levels in great anticipation of what the ‘new normal’ will be. For most Kiwis, this has been a challenging time, and there remains significant uncertainty in what lies ahead for us personally, in business and as a nation.

But, while in our bubbles, have we learned any lessons over lockdown? I say, yes.

Kiwis have used these past few weeks in lockdown to build on their resilience, show their patience, and demonstrate a willingness to be part of a greater good, often with humour and touch of Kiwi ingenuity. In a time of immense pressure and stress, they’ve shown kindness and generosity towards others, but most importantly, they have shown kindness and care for themselves.

A recent government report[i] shows Kiwis used lockdown as an opportunity to embrace the ‘no, low and slow’ approach to drinking. That is, it’s always okay to say no to alcohol, choose a drink that is low alcohol, or to simply savour your drink slowly.

The initial spike in panic-buying when lockdown was first announced quickly levelled off. And, despite headlines predicting that binge- and boredom-drinking madness would ensue, Kiwis have continued to be moderate and responsible drinkers even under the pressures of lockdown. That includes looking at how they are drinking and what they are drinking.

The research shows that over lockdown around one-third (36%) of New Zealanders said they had not had a drink over a four week period. Of those who did have a drink, around 50 % are drinking the same amount as they usually do, and one-third are actually drinking less.

It is pleasing to see that Kiwis are making good decisions around alcohol based on their personal circumstances, situation and their lifestyle. It’s hoped these behaviours will continue after lockdown.

People also took time over lockdown to think about their health and wellbeing, with 35% saying they were using the time to reduce how much they drink. This follows global trends of people choosing more no- and low-alcohol drinks and better-for-me options. Over lockdown, the most significant shift in sales has been in a surge in low-carb beer, up around 60%.

As we move down the Alert Levels and life returns to a new normal, we expect the importance of no-and low-alcohol beverages will bounce to a higher level than before lockdown as people have a renewed focus around lifestyle choices and their health and wellbeing. As an industry, we’ll continue supporting this by producing more better-for-me options.

We also know that one in five drink in a harmful way, and that’s not okay. We all have a part to play in helping those people through targeted education initiatives and support programmes.

Recognising the stresses that Kiwis are under during lockdown, the industry got in behind the CheersNZ! campaign to #drinknormal. We’ve been suggesting that Kiwis take heed of the Ministry of Health’s low-risk alcohol drinking advice, and that parents embrace the opportunity to show positive role modelling around moderate and responsible drinking to any young people in their homes. We’re also encouraging people to check out and for tips and information to help them make better choices about alcohol – like learning what a standard drink is.

Indeed, we have a long way to go on our road to recovery from the impact of COVID-19 on our country, and times will likely get rockier before they get smoother. But, along that journey, we can continue to make positive changes to our drinking culture.

I think you can teach dogs (both old and young) new tricks – ‘no, low and slow’ seems to be a lesson that all Kiwis can take from lockdown and beyond.  

Tips to go ‘no, low or slow’ over lockdown and beyond!

  • Go ‘no, low or slow’. It’s okay to choose no- or low-alcohol drinks. If you choose to drink, pace yourself and enjoy your drink slowly.
  • Know what a standard drink is and keep an eye on how many you are drinking.
  • Drink plenty of water, especially in between drinks to stay hydrated.
  • Eat when you are drinking.
  • Support others to stay safe and social. Check-in with family and friends to help them stay connected.
  • Check out and for more information on what a standard drink is and how to make better drinking decisions.
  • Refer to the Ministry of Health’s Low-risk alcohol drinking advice. Reduce your long-term health risks by drinking no more than:
  • Two standard drinks a day for women and no more than 10 standard drinks a week.
  • Three standard drinks a day for men and no more than 15 standard drinks a week.
  • AND have at least two alcohol-free days every week.

Need help? Call the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, free txt 8681, or visit

[i] Health Promotion Agency, The impact of lockdown on health risk behaviour, 21 Apr 2020

Did you know?

There are 6 ways you can catch up with The Shout NZ?

Our monthly print magazine. Subscribe here.
Online, updated daily with its own completely unique content and breaking news.
Our fortnightly newsletter – free to your inbox! Subscribe here.
Our digital magazines – the April issues are online now, here and here.
We are also on Facebook and Instagram!