Quality key as students return

Young adults more discerning than ever when it comes to drinks


WITH university and college freshers’ weeks set to take place over the next couple of weeks, towns and cities will be awash with new and returning students.

It’s a chance for operators to pull out all the stops and attract new customers to their venues.
Bars and clubs across Scotland will doubtless be staging all sorts of events and entertainment geared towards the student market.
But what should they stock when it comes to drinks?
With a huge range of drinks styles and brands on the market, there is plenty to choose from.
And it seems all that choice has raised students’ expectations.

Students expect impressive drinks and a quality experience – and they’re willing to pay for it.

According to drinks firms contacted by SLTN last week, students are more discerning than ever when it comes to drinks.
“Although their choices are still heavily influenced by price and promotion, today’s students are embracing the long-term trend for trading up,” said Simon Green, marketing director at Global Brands, which recently revived RTD brands Reef and Hooch under licence from Molson Coors.
“When visiting the on-trade they too expect impressive drinks options, good service and an overall quality experience, and they’re willing to pay for it.”
This trend is also noted by the firm behind Swedish cider brand Rekorderlig.
“Students are much more savvy than they used to be when it comes to drinking repertoires,” said Gareth Whittle, managing director of Chilli Marketing, which distributes Rekorderlig in the UK.
“It’s not just a pint of lager or a classic cider flavour like apple, they seek new flavours that are exciting and Rekorderlig delivers that.”
Drinks distributor Maxxium UK, which counts Sourz and RTD variant Sourz Fusionz among its brands, agreed that young adults are more willing to experiment when it comes to drinks.
“There has been a definite shift in the last ten years as students continue to broaden their drinking repertoires, the digital world has arrived and tighter regulations have come into play,” said marketing controller Eileen Livingston.
“What’s more, young adults today are always looking for new flavours and taste experiences to enjoy and this is something operators have had to consider when marketing to this audience. The demand for top brands is still very much there as student consumers are looking to ensure value from the investment they make during their nights out.”
Debs Carter, marketing director for WKD, agreed that offering value is key for venues to attract young adults.
“Students are more discerning and they’re looking for brands they are familiar with,” she told SLTN.
“Licensees should stock well-supported brands that are investing in marketing activity and innovation. Students also want value from brands – it’s not about being the cheapest.”
One way operators can add value – and boost their own GP, according to Carter – is by offering RTD-based cocktails.
The brand is promoting a range of pitcher serves using each of the WKD variants, which she said are quick and simple for bartenders to make and, crucially, popular with the student market; drinks include Electric Blue (2 x WKD Blue, 50ml Jagermeister and Red Bull) and Space Invader (2 x WKD Red, 50ml Disaronno and lemonade).
“One of the key drinking trends is the rise of cocktails,” she said.
“Not necessarily handcrafted cocktails but also RTD-based cocktails, jugs and pitchers.
“This type of cocktail is easy for the venue to make, the consumer likes the theatre and operators can make good profit. If they [operators] do it [cocktails] well and keep refreshing them, it’s an easy way to offer a point of difference over their competitors.”
Green at Global Brands also flagged up the importance of offering RTD-based cocktails, saying the flavours, presentation and theatre appeal to the student market.
“Cocktail culture is on the rise and 18 to 24 year olds are seeking out versatile brands that meet their expectations for big nights out,” he added. “Although Reef is available in a 275ml format, the product’s mixability makes it the perfect base ingredient for share serves, such as the Reef Cooler, which are great sales drivers and add interest to the category.”
Meanwhile Neil Ward, of Continental Wine & Food, advised operators to devise a range of cocktails that can be tailored around events and seasons.
“Incorporating cost-effective tertiary brands, such as Lixx, Orchards and Bali, into your cocktails will create great-tasting mixes that will ring much-needed additional profits through your till,” he said.

Image – WKD is being promoted in pitcher serves like Electric Blue (Blue WKD, Jagermeister and Red Bull).