Speaking at The Morning Advertiser (MA) Spirits: Future Trends event this week (3 October), Spiros Malandrakis, senior alcoholic drinks analyst at Euromonitor International, told delegates keeping a close eye on category innovation and NPD was the only way to retain younger customers’ attention.
He said: “[Younger customers] need constant experimentation and new products and categories to try out – whenever we get too complacent with one they will move on to the next – promiscuity is an understatement.”
CGA Strategy commercial director Graeme Loudon coined the idea of ‘promiscuous’ modern consumer tastes at The MA’s Future Trends: Beer & Cider event earlier this year, citing CGA research that revealed 22% of consumers considered themselves ‘disloyal’ to drinks brands.
The 18 to 24-year-olds age group were found to be the most ‘promiscuous’ when it came to choosing drinks. However, consumers in general were found to be significantly more likely to try new brands than they were just two years ago, with the average drinker having roughly 12 drinks in their repertoire.
Off-trade calls the shots
Malandrakis highlighted the importance of positioning for drinks brands owners who want to grow sales and operators who want to optimise their drinks offer.
He said: “Positioning is everything – eight years ago, no one was drinking Bourbon. It was undrinkable and no one cared about it, then suddenly about seven years ago everyone started asking for Bourbons.”
But Bourbon sales were massively buoyed by the success of TV’s Mad Men rather than any mass shift in flavour or production methods, he explained.
“Everyone wanted to be Don Draper and have their own Old Fashioned cocktails as they perceived them in the series,” he said.
“It was just the fact that alcohol [drinks] – especially spirits – say something about us, or they are perceived to say something about us.
“Even if [customers] don’t actually like the flavour of a Negroni, they will consume it because they want to say something to the opposite sex sitting next to them.”
Malandrakis continued by pointing to trends he expected to see making waves in the UK spirits market in the near future, marking out boutique whisky brands in particular as ones to watch.
He said: “We’re going to see boutique distilleries that slowly come to market, maturing their stocks for four or five years.
“They will be like nothing we have seen before because of the regions they are coming from and experimental ideas that are maturing them faster.”
Tequila would go ‘from strength to strength’, he predicted, saying: “[Producers] have been very careful with experimentation – they have added flavours, but flavours directly related to the culture of the brands.”
He added that the future did not look so bright for vodka.
“The hangover with vodka will continue,” he said. “But there will be some niche local brands that will make inroads.”
Off-trade calls shots
Unfortunately for the on-trade, Malandrakis told delegates that the off-trade would have more to gain from technical advancements seen over the past few years.
He said: “I do believe there is potential in things like instagramming drinks and social media from the bar.
“But I think less disposable income to go out and the fact that people are looking for less alcoholic products and buying less in volume is better for the off-trade.”
Sponsors of the Future Trends: Spirits event included headline partners Diageo and Schweppes; associate partners Pernod Ricard UK and the Wine and Spirit Education Trust; and bar partners Warner Edwards, Masons Yorkshire Gin, Slingsby Artisan Gin, the City of London Distillery and Willis Publicity.