As Americans join the Dry January trend, one startup is promoting “dry” January instead.
Based in San Francisco Sunny country deviates from the total sobriety approach. Instead, the direct-to-consumer app helps users find balance. Recently launched a Dry(ish) January a challenge that encouraged reduced drinking rather than complete abstinence. This includes only drinking on weekends or cutting your usual drinking in half.
“If you become too restrictive and you’re kind of stuck in this all-or-nothing mindset, as soon as you slip up or as soon as you have that first drink, there’s a sense of failure… Whereas if you’re really striving to be more mindful and make the lifestyle and habit changes you intend to make [keep] in the long run, the impact is sustainable long-term change,” said Nick Allen, CEO and co-founder. Alan co-founded the company with Ian Anderson, Sunnyside’s Chief Growth Officer.
Sunnyside not only encourages balanced drinking for the month of January, but all year round. People start with an intake test that asks about their personal habits and goals. Once signed up, users can receive a personalized plan to help them moderate their drinking, along with automated messages to encourage them to stick to their goals. They can also receive text coaching from previous Sunnyside users who can answer questions and give advice. To facilitate user engagement, the platform allows them to communicate with other people on the app through a daily prompt that the company provides.
Customers pay $99 per year, which includes planning, training and community support. For those who want more hands-on help, they can pay $300 a year to receive more messages from partner coaches and more proactive signups.
Sunnyside was born out of Allen’s own experiences with alcohol. He grew up in a household with two recovering alcoholic parents, both of whom went on the road to total sobriety. Then a few years ago, Alan and his wife took a break to work and travel. But the lack of a set routine makes it easier for drinking to get “out of balance,” he said. Alan also decided to change his drinking habits, but wanted to take a different approach than his parents.
“While my parents made the decision for me to be sober, and it was something that really had a profoundly positive impact on my life, total sobriety didn’t feel like the right fit for me,” he said.
He began looking for technology to help him cut down on his drinking, but mostly found solutions that promoted total abstinence.
“I was really looking for something to help me be proactive in managing my drinking and quantify my overall consumption, similar to how I’ve had success tracking calories and steps, exercise and mindfulness using technology in other areas of my health,” Alan said. “It became quite clear to me that there is a huge gap in the market for the millions of adults who are interested in being more careful and balanced with their drinking, but who are still not open or interested in full sobriety.”
The company claims results: users cut their alcohol consumption by an average of 30% in the first 12 weeks, according to Sunnyside’s website. There is less drinking proven to improve sleep, reduce stress and aid weight loss.
The company chose its name to emphasize the benefits of reduced drinking, including “brighter mornings,” Allen said. Investors are also interested in Sunnyside. It raised about $6.5 million in two fundraising rounds, including from Uncork Capital, Offline Ventures, Scribble Ventures and Adjacent Ventures, Allen said.
Other companies that help people with alcohol consumption are Reframe, A sober friend and I’m sober. However, they are more focused on sobriety than sobriety, Allen said. In 2023, Sunnyside hopes to expand its product to reach more consumers looking for an alternative to sobriety.
“It’s really about breaking through in 2023 and demonstrating at scale that there’s a massive population of people that we’re better suited for,” he said.
Although moderation rather than sobriety may be the more sustainable path given how culturally ingrained drinking is, recent research appears to very clear answer: Even a small amount of alcohol is harmful.
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