Drink To The Future

It is time to explore the future of drink innovation, consumer demands and the trends of the year to come. 

2019 – what a year! But more importantly, what a decade. By the close of 2019, we had witnessed somewhat of a bumpy year for the spirits and cocktail industry. While it seemed that the international phenomenon was to drink more, it seemed that we drank cleaner, smarter, more sustainably and with our health (and often the environment) in the forefront of our minds.

We saw:

  • the rebirth of the seltzer (particularly amongst younger consumers)
  • The need for speed with the significant market growth in RTDs, pre-batch and cocktails on draught
  • The drastic worldwide increase in tariffs – mostly affecting the U.S where some duties (mainly whiskey and single malt) rose to 25%
  • The cultural obsession with concept bars – mainly existing for the purpose of social media and pop culture references
  • Celebrity spirits emerged – Ryan Reynolds ‘Aviator’, Nick Jonas ‘Villa One’, Michael Jordan ‘Cincoro’ – all following in the footsteps of George Clooney and Rande Gerber ‘Casamigos’. Tequila was very much a key player in this evolution – (perhaps all following suit from Clooney and Gerber’s $1 billion pay out from Diageo in 2018)
  • The sustainability drumbeat continued – ranging from the transition from plastic to paper (and even pasta) straws to the up-cycling of citruses, we saw brands focusing more on foraging local botanics, reusable cup schemes and the total ban on plastic products
  • The birth and fail of CBD as a drink ingredient
  • The boom of the Spritz very much taking over from the Mojito and the most popular worldwide cocktail

So, what should you expect from 2020?

1.   The Endless War On Plastic

 Turn on the news. The proof is in front of you. Never has it been more paramount for us to change the way we live. Change the way we eat, we grow, we work, we travel, we exist.

At Bar Nation we are proud partners of things that matter and we are EXTREMELY proud to be partnered with:

Energy Revolution, Less Plastic, Atlantic Ambition, Pedal & Post and Vision 2025

Look out for:

  • Unpacked” – piloted by Waitrose, a refillable bar and wine scheme that has expanded to three more of its superstores across the UK. Expect to see more of these over the next few months.
  • Cornwall Live – pledging to make Cornwall one of the first counties to be fully plastic free

2.   The Never-Ending Reign of Gin

Diageo’s Gordon’s Pink Gin lead the market in 2018. The line extension saw sales hit 1.21 million cases, helping the brand report a 26.7% volume increase. Kathy Parker, Diageo’s senior vice-president of premium core gins, said “What is fantastic is that [Gordon’s Pink] recruits new drinkers to the brand and category. People who didn’t historically drink gin can find something in Gordon’s Pink, whether it’s the colour, the serve or the strawberry garnish, which makes people feel a bit more special.”

With summer sun came the flavoured and coloured gin obsession. And this very much was an obsession, perhaps even the largest boost we had seen in spirit history in the entire decade. We saw Warner Edward’s Rhubarb storm the market as the premium flavoured G&T of choice in 2019. Warner’s flavoured gins account for 75%-80% of its business. At one point, Tom Warner said their flavours were “probably 95% of what we did”.

Flavoured gin sales soared by 751% in 2019 with 73 million bottles being sold around the UK and WSTA (Wine & Spirit Trade Association), claimed the sales and exports were worth more than £2.7 billion.

But in 2020 sales area supposedly already down by 4%. But this is just a seasonal trend? If we continue to have summers like the last two, this won’t stop here. The ‘ginnaissance’, as it is now commonly referred to, has been predicted by 37% by 2021. Think more unusual flavours; new locations (Japan and cherry blossom tones); botanical garnishments; a boom in gin tourism (distilleries with tours, masterclasses, accommodation and pairings restaurants) and more RTD gins.

The Gin To My Tonic Festivals – are now also the clear winners for THE gin festival of 2019. With sell-out shows at every event and incredibly low prices for an ultimate evening’s experience, you don’t have to be an expert to see that the UK market has no intentions of slowing down.

3.   The Whisky Wage

Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky took the title of Travel Retail Taste Master in 2019, voted by one judge as “When you smell something this good you pray it carries through to the taste, and this does. It’s one you want to take away and settle into an armchair with.” At the close of the last decade, the Cotswolds Distillery launched its first round of crowdfunding to raise £1 million to help expand its whisky production.

With the likes of Diageo putting Johnnie Walker at the forefront of its activations, a Johnnie and Ginger will be a popular drink choice this year. But don’t forget the classic expression the 1870 Old Forrester, or the luxury spirit winner the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s G6.9, or 1792 Full Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon. There will be hundreds of innovations this year… but will this mark the saturation? After all, we have seen this attempted before.

4.   More Room For Rum

Barrel-aged golden rums are key for 2020. Up by 23% year on year, drinkers are moving away from white rum and investing their interest in flavour and spice. Award-winning Rockstar had two incredible contenders – Pineapple Grande Overproof Spiced Rum (65%) and Two Swallows Spiced Rum (38%) – both punchy and both continuing to dominate the rum market.

5. The Rise of the Low-and-No Abv

Once seen as the most ‘depressing month of the year’ (specifying January 24 as the worst day), the drinks world has taken a huge leap forward when it comes to low and no ABV.

21% of UK consumers are planning to take part in Dry January (an estimated 4.2 million people in the UK took part last year). While many consumers see this as a chance to save money, human nature dictates we still endlessly require the need for social interaction. The alcohol market may take a hit this month, however we will see a predicted rise of 38% in low-to no ABV products throughout the next few weeks. With a third of UK adults now being non-drinkers, the wellness economy is well and truly here to stay.

Drinkaware, the alcohol education charity, launched a campaign last year called ‘Drink Free Days Are Not Just for January’. Elaine Hindal (CEO) said ‘‘Drinkaware is here to help people who want to make changes to their drinking all year round. Taking several drink-free days each week is a simple and easy thing to do, and we are here to support people every step of the way.’ Try out the free online tool which helps you evaluate the effects your drinking habits have on you.

The clear advantage that no abv brands have is marketing. Alcohol brands are not allowed to make claims about supposed health benefits. With alcohol consumption lower than it has been since 2005, and with gen Z coming-of-agers now shying away from alcohol altogether, 45% of 25-34 year olds are opting for low-to-no alternatives.

Some snapshot statistics:

Low & No Category Share – Beer 85%, Cider 14%, Spirits 0.2%, Wine 0.8%

£63.7m spent

+71% volume growth in alcohol-free alternatives

+82% value growth in alcohol-free alternatives

+23% volume growth in alcohol-free alternatives

+28% value growth in alcohol-free alternatives

61% of consumers want better choice when it comes to no-abv drinks

58% are drinking more low-to-no abv drinks than last year

The Lo & No Beverage Summit (Oct 2019):

Despite making up less than 5% of the total beer market, alcohol-free ad low ABV syds were the first types of lo-no products to win over consumers. In a recent OnePoll survey. 52% agreed that non-alcoholic beers have become socially acceptable. Three years ago Big Drop Brewing Co were the only people making low ABV beer, 2018 sales roles 58% to the previous year. Sales of beer with an ABV below 2.8% have risen 381% since 2017. Beer is very versatile – is the future beer mocktails?

The hardest battleground for non-alcoholic beers is still the on-trade (mainly pubs) where it has been slow to respond. While you can produce alcohol-free beer in kegs, you are unable to do so in cask, as the alcohol itself acts as a preservation for the drink, therefore the drink is a live product. Will production logistics throw some spanners in the works for independently funded brands?

Dark beer also had its moment in the low ABV space. Big Drop released a limited edition ultra-low ABV stout, which coincided with the sponsorship of the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Keep an eye out for more sober takes on traditional beer styles this year.

Pernod Ricard took a leap into the low and no-ABV territory with an alcohol-free spirit in Jan 2019: Celtic Soul. Funkin’ Cocktails also brought out Stryyk’s “Not Rum”. The founder of non-alcoholic gin Ceder’s, Craigh Hutchinson, also announced he was working with PR on a new rum-inspirited ‘spirit’. Emerging brands to keep an eye out for this year are Stryyk (UK), J. Gasco (Italy) Memento (Italy) and Undone (Germany).

But let’s not forget Seedlip who should be heavily congratulated for putting the no-abv category on the map. Part-owned by Diageo, since its launch in 2013, this brand won the contract with Virgin last year as the first non-alcoholic spirit to be sold in the air. Following in such a bench setter’s footsteps, Æcorn Aperitifs stayed well ahead of the curve last year. Claire Warner launched the sister brand with three products, where there is a clear sustainability strategy where the majority of the ingredients are sourced from the UK.

Three Spirit is also another one to look out for. Supplied by Enotria, this product is described as “the world’s first plant-powered social spirits. William Grant has delivered a low-abv answer to Seedlip called Atopia, even almost recalling their competitors graphic design. Pentire from Cornwall also launched Pentire Adrift, inspired by former surf instructor Alistair Frost – inspired by all plants native to the Cornish coastline. Sugar-free, with no artificial colours or flavourings, the company donated a percentage of proceeds to local conservation charities. Launched earlier in 2019, Ceder’s placed itself as a gin substitute marrying all the tones found echoed in a typical gin.

Other brands of note are Everleaf – cola botanical flavour; Xachoh – a hefty-priced no-abv with two blends on offer and Nine Elms – described as an ‘alcohol-free drinks designed to accompany good food’. Dalston’s released millennial-aimed products ‘Soda Lights’ with four drinks, all tracking the new-found trend of less sugar is more. Punchy Drinks, who managed to launch in Selfridges in 2018, held the beacon to create the first 0% abv Spiced Rum Punch in a bottle. With a fresh 2019 re-brand, these guys are heading for bigger events, bigger bars and bigger things.

You also then have the ‘celebrity’ launches, take a look at CleanGin, launched by Spencer Matthews, containing 2 calories per 25ml serving: 1.2% abv with a punchy RRP sold by Clean Liquor. If influencers continue to put their statuses to positive campaigns, this can only mean good things for the drinks trade.

6. Go Hard or Go Home

This is somewhat of a foreign concept to us: the Seltzer. Maybe it is because the name doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as nicely as others or it’s because some of us are familiar with the certain painkiller that helps to cure our hangovers.

But you cannot ignore the success of the White Claw Seltzer in the US. A 5% ABV 100 calorie, 2 gram carb, gluten-free RTD with branding such as ‘spiked sparkling water’ and ‘Made Pure™’. Since 2016, the category has been growing at a triple-digit figure since with 2019’s numbers showing a 300% growth. And millennials are to thank for this… and amazingly, even that number is limited to some extent by production capacity. If there were more, it would be sold. White Claw Seltzer outsold Budweiser in the States last year. (It actually ran out in the US due to such high consumption demands.) Seltzers are brewed not formulated and – an extremely important distinction to remember due to the taxes and regulations of the US governments. But what of similar products in the UK and, more importantly, will this just be a 2020 phase?

Let us introduce to you Bodega Bay. Designed by Charlie, after a California sunset surf lesson with some locals, his idea was to “to offer a guilt free solution to socialise with alcohol, without compromising taste or quality”. Recently voted best seltzer on Sunday Brunch (Jan 5th 2020), what sets this brand apart is its unusual flavours. Made with BrewClear™ filtered alcohol, they are free from artificial colours, flavours and sweeteners, the drinks come in either ‘Apple with Ginger and Açai Berry’ or ‘Elderflower with Lemon and Mint’. Different, unusual and definitely a clear contender of 2020.

Watch out for Kopparberg’s 2019 addition is its alcohol-infused sparkling water ‘Balans Aqua Spritz’ coming in with 4% abv (and 60 calories per 250ml). Coming in two flavours, Mandarin and Lime, gluten-free and vegan friendly, it prides itself as being the perfect serve for every moment and “the best of both worlds. Join the movement”.

Green Cola – seen as an underdog last year, has just come storming into 2020 with four new labels in its range. With others a bit slow off the mark, GC managed to set a precedent for those already looking for healthier, premium soft drinks. They have doubled their growth every year since 2017, with current retial value estimated to be well over £3m on an annualised basis. With their new launch, this rapid growth will undoubtedly continue over the years to come.

The health conscious, eco-warrior, sustainable movement is not going anywhere. These drinks are very much here to stay.


7. The Evolution of the Craft Coffee

In the top five of last year’s cocktails sits the Espresso Martini. Although the tipple has been around for the past few years (invented in the early 80’s in London by Dick Bradsel), its popularity has fluctuated over the past decade. But what is for certain now is that people love their coffee and they love their inventive cocktails. Put the two together and here exists the craft coffee cocktail culture. We now see it everywhere – Funkin’, Tails Cocktails, Espresso on draught, Espresso in cans… the new concepts allow everyone the chance to ‘be the barman’ but also bring, what was once seen as a post-meal treat, back to your own home and enjoyed in your own time.


8. “Do It For The Gram”

Also following on from the millennial-dominated decade, where (according to HootSuite) 1 billion people use Instagram every month and 500 million use Instagram stories every day, it is predicted that IG users will spend an average of 28 minutes per day on the platform. That is a lot of time… however this is the ultimate platform for brands.

We joke about the phrase but it’s true. Users posts for the likes (which are now banned in 7 countries) and it is very rare you will attend an event, a concert, a birthday or even a small social gathering where someone is not scrolling or uploading or posting or commenting. It’s a love-to-hate scenario. Watch out for social media-minded venues. Picture mirrored walls, whimsical restrooms, IG playground themed-bars, personalised garnishes, more dry ice machines, more cocktail toppers…

Following on from the point on the craft coffee cocktail culture, cocktails are undoubtedly one of the most popular online. Keep an eye out for cocktail towers, initially inspired by the Great Gatsby days with champagne flutes, many venues are trying new and wonderful ways to showcase their drinks on offer. After all they they…

 #doitforthegram #doitforthafans #doitforthelikes

9. The RTD

Quicker, convenient, consistent serves. Drinking on the move. That is now a permanent requirement. Check out Longbottom Co. for their take on a Virgin Mary (their branding is also spot on). Now featured on British Airways and with listings all over the UK, keep an eye on this brand.

Bloody Drinks are also a solid choice. With their first event being Glastonbury 2019, they sold out within 24 hours.

It isn’t just about the cocktails, wine in a can is also growing and at smaller serves. People may be drinking cleaner but they are still drinking.

10. Craft Beer

Move over Brut IPAs and say hello to sweet beers. It takes a lot to shift culture and this year won’t be a whole lot different to last however, lagers will finally become a prominent style as will low calorie options. We will see more Tiny Rebel, Lost & Grounded, Siren, Wild Beer Co and Beavertown. These were big hitters last year and will remain to prove their worth in 2020.

11. Move Over Mainstream

2017 – 2019 saw a main contender on the mixer market. We all know who the clear leader was. However with that in mind, there are now even bigger hitters on the scene. Take a look at Merchant’s Heart – first voted by GQ as the “only drink to have with gin.

Or the Double Dutch twins, Raissa and Joyce de Haas, who have just been voted 30 under 30 Europe 2019 by Forbes.

Or Fentimans whose growth was 5.4% last year? With the premium mixer sales growing by 81.3% last year, Fentimans were second on the market leader board by COP December 2019.

London Essence were taken by Britvic to break the US market in March 2019. Appealing to the ever-growing theme of ‘keeping it local’, LE endlessly change their range to meet consumer demands. Towards the end of the year, they also added in their new contender of original Indian tonic water now making their total range a collection of 10.

And a special mention to Lixir Drinks (notice the name rebrand), who had 100% growth on their previous year. Their team has grown by 250% in the last year alone. Having expanded from a two-man team to five full-time employees, the pair have also taken on three non-exec directors with a wealth of experience who will are helping to grow Lixir’s overseas reach (it already extends into 10 international markets). They are now the number one mixer on the shelves in Selfridges (having knocked off Fever-Tree) and Fenwick. They produced over 1 million bottles; their Classic Indian was voted best standard tonic at the Class Bartender Brand Awards and their Rhubarb and Ginger flavour beat tonic to feature in the Crafts Gin Clubs 2019. They also won two Great Taste Awards. Oh and they were just listed in the North East as 20 for 20… you have only just seen the beginning of their growth. Keep your eyes peeled.

But this does not, in any shape, discredit the clear winners of last decade. Fever-Tree have set the benchmark as well as given the opportunity for emerging brands to realise that success is possible. Look at how FT has transformed the spirits world. The spirit of the decade was gin and Fever-Tree has a lot to be thanked for this. Today they were announced for the sixth consecutive year, by the Drinks International Brands Report, for landing Top Selling and Top Trending Tonic 2020. It seems that everyone are still supporters to #mixwiththebest.

12. Wine From Expected Locations

For those of you who have watched the episode “Reign of Terror” of Rotten on Netflix, you will be familiar with the current international regulations on wine where traditional farmers are fighting for survival. Specifically focusing on the damage caused by CRAV (Comité Régional d’Action Viticole) – a militant group who believed they have been plagued by surplus production – really shows that terrorism can exist in any ideology. French farmers now must go to extremes to stave off competition from the likes of Spain and, new competition, China.

On a more positive note, look at locations such as Uruguay, where they sold 1,900 cases in 2019 compared to 210 the year before. Hungary is perhaps the real story, where value and variety are perfectly paired, and currently sits 14th out of 26th. Closer to home sits a vineyard hotel in Wales, Llanerch, where a biodynamic Welsh producer Ancre Hill, has made a remarkable sparkling wine.

And for those vegans out there, of which now make up 7% of the UK population, brands such as M&S have pledged to make all its own-label wines suitable for you. But there will be some persistent eyes on this production because just HOW vegan will they be? Vegan wine can only be fined (clarified) using vegan products (egg whites are often found in some wines). But what about the glue used on the labels? And what if the land has been ploughed by animal labour? And if we are being pedantic, and if the vineyard has been pre-managed bio-dynamically, are there animal remnants still in the land?

Did you know?

1/10 Premium venues highlight vegan-friendly wines

42% of UK vegans made the full switch to veganism in 2018

327% is the growth of vegans in the UK in 2020

13. Perfect Pairings

And contrary to what this slogan already familiarises itself with (G&T for those not in the know) the real one to take note of is Real Kombucha. Launched just over two years ago, it’s complex flavour can ‘pop taste buds’ in the same way as food. David Begg (founder and CEO), alongside Adrian Hodgson and Will Battle, experimented with 150 different teas before settling on their three flavours. Not convinced? Well how about the fact that Michelin restaurants are already listing them on their fine dining menus officially pairing them with their dishes. These drinks were designed by a non-drinker for drinkers. Absolutely worth a try and most definitely worth making it a go-to.

Over the past two years, Kombucha has exclusively been fruit flavours but watch for the growth into floral (elderflower) and spice (ginger and cinnamon). Other brands to throw into the mix include Remedy Kombucha, Health-Aide, Brew Dr. Kombucha and Humm Kombucha.

Current predictions for the drinks of 2020?

The Faux(or no)-groni.

The Seltzer.

Cocktail Towers.

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