SUMMER is well and truly on the horizon – and while sunshine is anything but guaranteed, there can be no doubt that on-trade customers are now looking for more choice than ever.
If licensees are to heat up sales this summer they must therefore be prepared with the right range of drinks, according to wholesale firms, who stressed the importance of keeping abreast of the latest drinks trends.
Wayne Scrivener, general manager at online drinks wholesaler Ooberstock, said knowing which categories and brands are likely to be in demand is key.
“Venues should be planning an eclectic range that offers traditional beverages (beer, cider, etc.) as well as refreshing long drinks,” he said.
Ally Gilmour, director of Glasgow-based wholesale firm Triana Drinks, whose portfolio includes Spanish beer Cruzcampo, reckons the drinks in demand this summer will include imported lagers and gin-based/long summer drinks.
Venues should be planning an eclectic range that offers traditional drinks.
“This might [be] the summer we see rum starting to take off, with some exciting new rum brands coming into the marketplace,” she added.
Toby Sigouin of wholesaler Inverarity Morton reckons wine by the glass “will continue to rise in popularity over the summer months”.
He also predicts premium Cava will be perceived as a “more affordable luxury” as Prosecco prices continue to rise due to ‘over-demand’ globally.
Operators should also consider their craft beer offer ahead of summer, according to Graham Baird, sales director at Belhaven.
“We expect craft beers to continue their rise this summer,” he said.
“This is exciting for us as a brewer as well as a supplier and the seemingly ever-growing interest in new flavours and formats certainly brings opportunity.”
Baird said the firm has witnessed “rapid growth” in the small can format in the off-trade – and he expects this trend to pick up in pubs and bars over the summer.
For operators looking to the latest flavour trends in craft beer, Baird reckons it’s fruit flavours that will prove popular, advising operators to look out for flavours such as grapefruit, which he reckons “could well be the taste of the summer”.
In terms of spirits, flavoured variants “saw a huge increase in 2016 and new flavours will keep coming in 2017”, according to Niall Deveney of wholesaler Dunns Food & Drinks.
Premium products offer the opportunity for growth in sales and profit this summer.
“These will include some more unusual ones, more than just the accepted white spirit with some kind of citrus variety,” he said.
“Look out for a few curve balls, such as beetroot.”
And Deveney reckons tequila could be the spirit to watch in pubs and bars this summer.
“Tequila is going through something of a maturation and is no longer just a party drink or shooter,” he said, adding that it’s “becoming increasingly popular as a base on cocktail menus” and growing in line with the increasing demand for premium drinks across the board.
The trend towards premiumisation was highlighted by other wholesalers.
Ian Cumming of Inverarity Morton said consumers “are becoming far more discriminating in their choices”.
Taking a similar stance, Gilmour of Triana Drinks said premium products with real provenance offer “the opportunity for growth in sales and profit this summer”.
But it goes beyond simply stocking more varied products, according to Baird of Belhaven.
“Offering an interesting range of premium products and being able to serve them with knowledge and confidence is a real differentiator for the on-trade,” he said.
“Doing it well requires research to get the range right and then depends on team members being engaged, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, so it requires time and training to ensure that the experience justifies the premium.”
Despite the work involved in creating a premium drinks offer, the operators that do can reap the rewards, according to Baird.
He reckons it “offers an obvious opportunity to trade-up and increase cash sales”, as well as providing “a great reason for customers to visit pubs, bars, restaurants rather than staying at home”.
Start speaking to your suppliers about the new products available.
When operators consider making any changes to their outlet’s drinks range, Gilmour of Triana Drinks advised licensees to consult their wholesaler.
“Start speaking to your suppliers about the new products that are available and start working on your new summer drinks list,” she said.
Gilmour added that pub and bar operators should expect more than just low prices from any wholesaler they work with.
She said a supplier should have a “focused approach” as well as first-hand knowledge of their brand portfolio; an ability to follow through on promises made at sales level; brand support and in-outlet brand training; reliable, speedy responses to enquiries/ requests; quality products to choose from; and, lastly, an ability to source products that operators require.
Alan Hay, sales director at Tennent’s, agreed.
He said: “Operators want to deal with a wholesaler who makes running their outlet as straightforward, simple and effective as possible.
“By working with someone who is responsible, efficient, competitive on price and comprehensive on range, this can be achieved.”