Trends. They come and go and very few have what it takes to make the cut to stick around and become part of a pub’s permanent repertoire. That said, we are obsessed with what’s coming next, although that usually means 10 years down the line. In reality, knowing which current and emerging trends to tap into will be more helpful to modern day operators than what to look out for in a decade.
For most suppliers to the trade, there are six key trends pubs should take into account when curating their drinks range – health and wellbeing, simplicity, customisation, premiumisation, sensorial and convenience.
Of the six trends, health and wellbeing crops up more than any other as consumers look to live healthier lifestyles, often resulting in lower, limited or no alcohol consumption. Data from the Office for National Statistics’ report Adult Drinking Habits in Great Britain: 2005 to 2016 showed that more than a fifth of Brits were choosing not to drink alcohol, while 3m adults were intent on moderating consumption with smaller serves.
“How consumers manage their health and wellbeing is an evolving beast,” explains SHS Group drinks division marketing director Amanda Grabham.
“One of the elements of health and wellbeing is more consumers not drinking, especially in the much younger audience. However, they still want to enjoy themselves and clearly every business should have a strategy around this trend.”
Coca-Cola European Partners’ trade communications manager Amy Burgess agrees that in the short term, health and wellbeing will become a bigger trend. “In 2018 we expect the drinks category to continue to be driven by the health and wellness trend as consumers look to manage their calorie intake and alcohol consumption,” she says.
Low-calorie options, a rising segment for some years now, will continue to play a healthy part of the modern pub’s drinks offer, Burgess adds.
“With 27% of consumers purchasing a low-calorie cocktail at least once a month (CGA Mixed Drinks Report 2016), and nearly a third saying they would prefer to order a low-calorie cocktail over a standard option, it is increasingly important for a licensee to maximise this opportunity by offering a varied menu that features low-calorie and low-sugar options.”
Shaping the landscape
The growers of this category – Millennials – are shaping the landscape of the drinks sector in a number of other ways too. This type of consumer is the largest age group in the UK, accounting for a 12% increase in out-of-home spend.
For businesses to prosper in the future it is vital they continue to appeal to Millennials and upcoming drinkers such as Generation Z. For Jen Draper, head of marketing at Global Brands – the maker of alcoholic craft soda Crooked – tapping into the fickle younger consumer is necessary. “Although they [Millennials] spend less of their monthly income on alcohol than the age groups before them, they’re happy to spend more if an adequately stylish or interesting option is available.”
Appealing to this generation is more about getting money in the till, but also the value they can add through their social networks, she says. “Through a sharing culture, Millennials choose to promote experiences that reflect their own personality. It is, therefore, more important than ever to tap into your own consumer base – socially, politically, ethically and aesthetically.”
With its new ready-to-drink brand Crooked, which features eye-catching designs and natural flavourings, Global Brands is playing on the current trend of craft.
Products with more of a ‘craft feel’, although not truly embodying the actual credentials of craft – small, local and artisan – draw on consumers’ desire to experiment and discover something new.
Crown Cellars’ spirits category manager Katie Hewitt says: “We’re seeing growth in categories that celebrate diversity and encourage consumers to venture beyond the core or the ‘standard’.
“It’s all about choice as customers become savvier, more knowledgeable and want to experience something authentic. Spirits drinkers, in particular, are demanding more for their money than ever before and are hungry for brands that make an emotional connection with them, that also says something about them and their values.”
The search for authenticity is, however, driving consumers towards smaller brands and away from larger, corporation-owned products, according to fourth-generation cider maker Martin Thatcher of cider brand Thatchers.
To put his theory into perspective, he outlines what is currently going on in the cider segment: “In recent years the UK on-trade cider market has seen substantial change, from totally new entrants, the growing popularity of brands from quality family cider makers, fruit cider, cloudy cider and more recently artisan cider.”
Thatcher continues: “Ciders from quality, English family cider makers have all grown in volume and value, suggesting the UK consumer is moving away from larger brands.
“The prediction is the UK on-trade cider market is likely to grow in value and volume over the next few years, with growth likely to come from comparatively small areas of the category – cloudy, craft and artisan.”
The taste factor
While there are many trends dictating what goes on in the market, taste is the dictating factor when it comes to the lifespan of a trend. The wine category is currently undergoing a big shift in image, with more brands updating their visuals to make products more enticing on the back bar, since in most cases the actual product is in little need of change.
Kingsland Drinks – a wine supplier that has delved into new ways of marketing its products with the likes of its Mr Gladstone’s Curious Emporium range – recognises the necessity of strong branding to encourage more drinkers into the category. The company’s marketing director Neil Anderson explains: “The wine industry has evolved; the people we make wine for have evolved and adapted their needs and requirements.”
Changes in the segment in the past year alone have been significant, he claims. However, there are more to come in the months and years ahead that will determine the strength of wine’s future. “Consumers care about how a drink tastes, if it’s refreshing, how it is made and how the label and bottle engages with them,” he continues.
“We know that branding is a critical part of selling any product, but for years in the wine industry it’s been secondary to showing things like terroir and heritage on the label. We’ve started to see, through some of the more innovative brands in the past year, that it’s the brand that really matters when engaging the younger Millennial drinker. Brands that reflect shared values are the ones that drinkers will proactively ask for in pubs.”
Key trends: six of the best
Though there are many experts out there predicting various long and short-term trends, it would appear there are at least six the majority can agree on. When it comes to curating a drinks selection that drives sales, there are some clear areas of interest for operators to consider.
1. Health and wellbeing
Fewer people are drinking, but when they do they don’t want to be consuming large quantities of unnecessary calories. They need choice to help satisfy their needs to live a healthier lifestyle
More and more consumers are looking for clarity from brands about the products they are consuming so they can understand what they are eating or drinking. It’s all about minimalism in both image and ingredients
Although it’s more of a longer-term trend, customers want to have influence over what they are eating and drinking. Consider the increased number of ready-to-serve cocktails now available
in supermarkets that allow consumers to garnish in their own way or even add other flavours
A trend that is already big and still on the rise. As consumers drink less but better they want more in terms of quality for their money – that means a better story, heritage and the best ingredients
Every single sense has to be entertained with a drink. Consumers don’t want a great-tasting drink that looks ugly or vice-versa
In short, they want it now. Consumers have access to almost anything they want whenever they want. If it’s not there quick, then they’re not hanging around to wait for it
Source: Amanda Grabham, head of brand marketing for alcohol at SHS Drinks