THERE cannot be too many people in the world of business who wouldn’t like to be able to see into the future.
In the licensed trade, being ahead of the curve on drinks trends can keep customers content with their choices and operators happy with their sales.
And experts in the drinks industry have told SLTN that premiumisation, a leading trend within food and drink over the last few years, will continue to guide the industry, whilst licensees can also expect to see health maintain a significant role as some consumers look to keep an eye on their alcohol consumption.
“In recent years, health has dominated consumer consciousness and we are witnessing more and more consumers moderating their alcohol intake with a movement towards ‘less but better’,” said Harry Greenhalgh, on-trade category manager at William Grant & Sons, owner of Hendrick’s Gin.
“Motivated primarily by quality and self-treating, these typically younger consumers may drink less, however their passion for quality and enriched experiences means they are spending more on fewer, more rewarding on-trade experiences.”
Moira Swan, drinks buyer at wholesaler Inverarity Morton, echoed that assessment, stating she expects to see low and no-alcohol serves grow within the nation’s pubs and bars in the future.
She said: “The latest trends would suggest that there are a growing number of consumers choosing not to drink alcohol at all, so I would expect the growth of premium non-alcoholic versions of our most popular serves appearing on the market.”
The trend towards lower-ABV or ‘shim’ cocktails was also flagged by Teddy Joseph, whisky specialist at Edrington-Beam Suntory, distributor of bourbon brand Jim Beam.
“The biggest trend of 2018 and beyond is the desire for low-ABV style serves by consumers,” said Joseph.
“Lower-ABV cocktails continue to shape drinks menus nationwide.”
In that spirit, Joseph reckons the whisky highball will be the serve to watch over the coming years.
“One of the most popular cocktails in the on-trade is the whisky highball,” he said.
“The serve offers drinkers the same expertise as traditional cocktails with a lower alcohol content.”
With demand for premium, non-alcoholic choices in bars rising, Adrian Troy, marketing director at Barr Soft Drinks, stated soft drinks have an important part to play in bars.
He said: “When consumers visit an outlet, they are willing to pay more for a premium offering.
“This is where premium soft drinks really come into their own, particularly amongst those who are looking for a non-alcoholic alternative to accompany a meal.”
The need for better quality soft drinks in the licensed trade was stressed by Jen Draper, head of marketing at mixer brand Franklin & Sons, too.
She said: “With more focus on quality over quantity by consumers, the premium soft drinks category is in one of the best positions it has been in recent years.”
With regards to mixology, Christian Sarginson, brand controller at Global Brands, distributor of LoneWolf Spirits, said superior cocktail components are crucial.
“When creating cocktails, the quality of the ingredients is essential, we expect the premiumisation of cocktails to grow further,” he said.
“Quality is also a huge focus for cocktail connoisseurs; not wanting to be compromised, they demand to be wowed every time.”
Conversely Dan Bolton, managing director of drinks distributor Hi-Spirits, which counts Buffalo Trace in its portfolio, said that while premiumisation is “hugely important… it always has to be tempered with a reminder that the primary reason people are out in the on-trade is to enjoy themselves”.
He added: “One of the reasons that bourbon is seeing growth well ahead of Scotch is that it celebrates its mixability and doesn’t take itself too seriously.”