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Radius, the IWSR’s global innovation database, predicts the leading trend drivers affecting the global beverage alcohol industry for 2018
Far from being a flaw, ‘cloudiness’ is beginning to denote not just flavour, but a more natural, less tampered with product. When a trailblazing Scottish craft brewer announced the launch of its inaugural spirits range, comprising of both a vodka and a gin, it was adamant the latter was to be unfiltered. Why? Because this “means that all of the flavour and spirit complexity remains”, it said. Notably, the liquid even louches on contact with ice and water, as “removing flavour in the pursuit of vanity makes no sense”.
Unfiltered is a much more familiar concept in beer, where unfiltered ‘tank’ beer, fresh from traditional lager brewers such as Budweiser Budvar, has long been a prized delicacy. However, the pursuit of creating as clear a liquid as possible has been a fixation of the craft brewing movement. While the process creates a more consistent, shelf-stable product that can linger on store shelves and inside refrigerators, it also strips out flavourful proteins, hop sediment and yeast.
While clarity was once seen as a chief sign of quality, brewers are increasingly marketing beers as unfiltered, communicating to drinkers that the beer is rawer and more flavourful and authentic. And with all of those things being key consumer drivers, we expect an increasing number of players in the ‘unfiltered’ space, most notably when it comes to spirits.
With young people shunning alcohol in ever-growing numbers, the impact of a generation of moderate drinkers is having a distinct influence on the type of products being launched.
Alcohol consumption among young people is falling. At one extreme end of the spectrum, excessive consumption is no longer seen as an act of rebellion, or rite of passage, and has become distinctly ‘uncool’. And at the other, total abstinence due to health and wellbeing concerns is on the rise. It’s up to the drinks industry to respond.
It would be hard to ignore the impact of Diageo-backed non-alcoholic ‘spirit’ Seedlip since its 2015 launch. But one resulting trend we’ve recently witnessed is that for Shim cocktails, whereby higher-ABV spirits such as gin and vodka are switched out for lower-ABV alternatives such as sherry, port and vermouth. The sherry-and-tonic and port-and-tonic serves are widely tipped to increase in popularity, as fortified wines as a whole are being ‘discovered’ by a new, younger generation. Several sherry focused bars have opened in the UK’s trendiest nightspots over the past 12 months, for example.
With consumers increasingly unwilling to consume calories or alcohol for products they deem ‘not worth it’, we see an increasing need for premium players in this space.
Consumers are becoming ever-more knowledgeable and curious as to what goes into the drinks they consume. There are signs that many are beginning to approach them in the same way they do food, seeking out calorie counts, ingredients, and sourcing information. In this simplicity, nothing-added, low-sugar driven market, one of the areas that drinks makers can explore, without compromising on any of these concerns, is texture.
Sparkling therefore – with its premium connotations – is ripe to become a greater area of exploration. From sparkling gins to bartenders adding carbonation to cocktails, we predict that adding fizz to traditionally flat drinks will become a greater area of exploration. Indeed, it’s already starting to happen. Brands already exploring this space include Kaava Sparkling Gin and sparkling vodka brands such as Le Grand Saint, Nuvo, Camitz, O2 Sparkling Vodka, among others.
Brands looking to enter this space however will need to tread carefully as, if not executed correctly, the trend runs the risk of appearing as a novelty, rather than an indicator of a premium product.
Though the full legalisation of marijuana is a long way from being achieved, there’s no doubt that it is already shaping the drinks world. Though cannabis-flavoured and infused products are nothing new, Constellation’s recent investment in Canadian medical marijuana company Canopy Growth, is the surest sign yet that the trend is about to go mainstream. This puts the drinks giant in a good position should national legalisation in the US occur – something that seems increasingly likely. (Currently states such as Colorado, Nevada and California have legalised the drug, other states look likely to follow in 2018.)
And if and when it does, cannabis looks likely to be one of the biggest disruptors the drink industry has ever seen. But even without, its influence is growing. Just last month Seattle-based Tarukino launched six cannabis-infused beverage products containing THC, the mind-altering component of the drug, with the Washington State Liquor Control Board having approved state marketing.
From the ‘unicorn’ trend to the rise of colour-changing gins, 2017 has been dominated by the colour of the food and drink we consume, and the environments we drink it in. Why? The simplest and most obvious answer is social media. With most people permanently carrying a high-quality camera, and Instagram growing in both reach and influence, we’ve arguably never lived in a more visual culture. A stylised snap posted on the app now has the power to make or break the reputations of both brands and on-trade venues meaning never has so much thought gone into the appearance of what we drink; if it’s not on Instagram, did it even happen?
But colour can be both frivolous and significant and it’s considered use looks set to dominate the year ahead. If 2017 has proved anything, it’s that colour has both power and social currency. For example, pink has become something of a social signifier and lifestyle indicator to the Millennial generation. Which begs the question, what’s next? Hot contenders still look to be in the Instagram-friendly pastel palate from pistachio green to lilac (largely due to the rise of Ube). The exact shade isn’t crucial; what is, is an understanding by brands that colour is both an easy shortcut when it comes to reaching a desired consumer base, but that it will become ever more central to ultimate success.
Though there have been attempts by the drinks industry to be more environmentally aware in recent years – usually through a focus on packaging – the pressure to cut back on waste is growing.
It would be an overstatement to say that waste has dominated the drinks landscape of late, but it’s increasingly informing the conversations we have. And there’s perhaps no market force that has the potential to alter both what we consume and how we consume it as drastically.
The Trash Tiki movement, pioneered by London bartenders Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage (White Lyan and Dandelyan) in late 2016, has been gaining momentum throughout 2017, highlighting the environmental cost of a cocktail. From over-garnishing to packaging and napkin waste, the duo are asking consumers and bartenders to be mindful of what they consume, and providing guidance on how to re-use cocktail ingredients that would usually be thrown away.
There’s been a notable backlash against plastic straws of late, with many venues replacing them with reusable alternatives. And we’ve also seen an increasing number of products launched that are themselves made of food waste, from beer made from waste bread, to vodka made from unsold baked goods.
With news headlines now frequently highlighting issues such as the plastics in our oceans and the predicted global food shortage, pressure from consumers to be more environmentally aware will only grow. It’s up to drinks makers to find innovative new solutions.