‘Active-ist’ drinkers expect brands to go the extra mile for them

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Ethical stance: almost half (47%) of drinkers like brands to have a point of view and stand for something, says William Grant & Sons
Ethical stance: almost half (47%) of drinkers like brands to have a point of view and stand for something, says William Grant & Sons

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Far-reaching social, economic, political and technological uncertainty is driving the growth of a new consumer mindset and premium spirit sales, according to William Grant & Sons.

The independent family-owned distiller’s Trending 2020​ report revealed that an ‘active-ist’ consumer mindset – characterised by a desire for curated social experiences, greater control of personal data and purpose-driven brand engagement – has come to the fore in the past year.

However, social division, Brexit and feelings of increased social and environmental responsibility have hardened this standpoint with said consumers now forming communities around niche groups and specialist interests, and calling for brands to go the extra mile to engage on their terms.

“The 2019 ‘active-ist’ consumers’ demands for control and a stronger voice is rooted in their desire to drive positive social change,” Neil Barker, William Grant & Sons UK and Ireland’s managing director, explained.

“Significantly, Trending 2020​ also reveals that consumers continue to expect the brands they engage with to go the extra mile for them, meaning brands must work harder to establish real connections with customers in the year ahead.

“The challenge for us is to ensure we positively engage with consumers by investing in sustainable, appropriate storytelling and immersive experiences.”

The report follows calls from drinks writer Sophie Atherton that pubs should take a firm stance​ on ethical and environmental issues.

Candid, human connection

William Grant & Sons’ research revealed that this outlook has driven an upward shift in spending on more meaningful experiences, pushing premiumisation in the spirits industry.

The company behind brand such as Glenfiddich, Hendrick’s gin and Sailor Jerry found that 80% of Millennials seek unique experiences and adventure with almost half (47%) agreeing they like brands to have a point of view and stand for something, believing it fosters engagement on a candid, human level.

What’s more, 73% of consumers agree ‘it’s not enough for brands to just be environmentally responsible – they should be socially responsible too’.

As reported by The Morning Advertiser​ in April 2018, 90% of Brits believe they are ‘ethical consumers’​, while a further 67% state they would boycott brands lacking an ethical conscience, according to Global software partner for the leisure and hospitality industry, Fourth.

Growth of premium spirits

The report also found that the beer, wine and spirits industry increased in value by 3.2% over the past year to £43.1bn, with the on-trade accounting for £25.7bn of this – an increase of 2.9%.

What’s more, it found that the spirits sector grew in value by 6.3% to £11.4bn over the same period. Of this, premium spirits are now worth £1.66bn according to William Grant & Sons – an increase of 16.3%, meaning the sub-category now accounts for 34.3% of all spirits value growth over the past year.

“Continued growth in the premium drinks sector reflects an increasing desire to prioritise quality over quantity,” Barker added.

“People are drinking less, but better, seeking out authentic quality brand experiences that deliver against values that are important to them.

“Innovation in no-and-low alcohol serves, clarity on the provenance of premium brands, as well as investment in the experiences that best elevate our brands are just some of the ways we will continue to take consumers on an elevated, premium experience journey.”

Related topics Spirits & Cocktails

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