That’s the message from drinks firms, who say a division has emerged between young people who are working and students who have limited income.
It means, they said, that the popularity of the big night out has increased among young college or university-goers, which, in turn, is said to impact on their drinks choices when they are out.
“There are a number of key drinks that are proving popular among 18 to 24 year olds, most of which are centred around the ‘big night out’ opportunity where consumers are going out less but spending more when they do,” said Simon Green, marketing director at Global Brands, owner of VK, Hooch and Kick Energy.
“With an increase of spend on each occasion, consumers expect more from their drinking experience with a focus on theatre, experience and premiumisation.”
Gabriela Moncada, brand ambassador for Jose Cuervo tequila, agrees that there are two distinct groups when it comes to the young adult market.
The demographic falls into two categories: those who study and those who work.
“I feel that the demographic falls into two main categories for young adults: those who are studying and those who are working,” she said.
“During university they tend to drink inexpensive drinks, like beers, shots, chasers and boilermaker-style drinks.
“Young working adults tend to have slightly higher disposable income and wish to reward themselves for what they’ve earned, so more mixers and spirits.”
New products are also key to bars seeking to appeal to a younger audience, said Emma Heath, marketing controller at Sourz.
“Having the correct range will help the bar to become a possible ‘haunt’ of young adults and students,” said Heath.
“Operators need to stay on top of new trends and take advantage of them. It’s important for the operators to also understand drinking rituals and experiences so they can continue to stock relevant products.”
Graham Coull of VC2, whose brands include Stivy’s and Boe gin, said stocking drinks that offer a point of difference is crucial to attracting young adult customers.
“Drinks that will most likely catch the young adult’s eye on shelf will have a bright, colourful and quirky label design,” said Coull.
“Again, young adults tend to go for a drink with versatility, or where there is a suggested unique or wacky serving suggestion that they haven’t seen before. Except from special occasions they will always be less likely to trade up to premium brands.
“Overall habits have changed and the recession has impacted the drinking habits of this category.”
However, Phil Keene, UK on-trade sales director at Whyte & Mackay, said that when young adults do have the funds they can be open to trading up.
“We can see that young adults are brand-aware and therefore more likely to trade up to premium spirits with heritage and authenticity such as Russian Standard when they have available funds,” he said.
Operators need to stay on top of new trends and take advantage of them.
“Even when they are on a tighter budget they are still looking for a good quality spirit, so bars frequented by students should look to stock an affordable quality spirit such as Vladivar Vodka.”
Debs Carter, marketing director for alcohol at SHS Drinks, the firm behind WKD, said young adults favour brands which reflect their lifestyle.
“Yes, money is a consideration, but young adults are shrewd enough to work out which brands are most deserving of their cash,” said Carter.
“Young adult consumers don’t think in terms of product categories, they think in terms of brands so it’s not so much about what ‘style of drink’ to offer, it’s more about the actual brands.
“These consumers are very brand savvy and brands are central to their lifestyle, so stocking the best-sellers is essential, and WKD is very much the ‘must stock’ in the RTD category.”
ABV can also be a consideration for the younger crowd, according to Steve Howard of Pinnacle Drinks Partnership, the firm behind Keglevich vodka.
“Brands that allow consumers to have a thoroughly enjoyable experience whilst staying in control of themselves mean that a great night out lasts the whole night and stays in their memory,” he said.