Tracking trends can at once be described as a fun part of this business and a frustrating exercise.
Among the fun elements of studying trends are discovering cool new products, making profitable new cocktails, and programming more engaging menus. But keeping up with trends can be a maddening task since they seem to change so quickly these days; how does one separate fad from trend from new standard anymore?
Keeping current with guest desires can generate revenue and help blast past slow-moving competition. Trends that take hold offer social media content and an avenue for boosting guest engagement, improving the guest experience.
When it comes to identifying trends, Technomic is one of the best in our industry.
Exotic Fruits & Flavors
It’s been said several times but it’s still true: The Internet and social media have made the world much smaller. People can “discover” food and beverage ingredients with the scroll of their thumb. After seeing a “new” ingredient in a drink at a bar thousands of miles away from them, some people—bar and restaurant guests—will want their favorite venues to offer those flavors.
Technomic has identified the following as exotic flavors1 consumers want in their cocktails:
- Dragonfruit (a popular tropical fruit)
- Gooseberry (a berry similar to the currant)
- Barberry (a tart, refreshing berry that is said to aid with stomach discomfort, heartburn and liver cleansing)
- Feijoa (also called pineapple guava, this fruit is popular in New Zealand)
- Mangosteen (a sweet and sour tropical fruit high in anti-oxidants, fiber and nutrients)
- Tepache (a fermented beverage made from pineapple peels)
- Habanada (this is a habanero pepper that doesn’t register on the Scoville scale, meaning it has no heat)
- Ume (an extremely sour Japanese plum that’s closer to an apricot and in season from June to July)
Healthier Ingredient & Drink Alternatives
The fact that people are more interested in adopting healthier habits and lifestyles is undeniable. For some, this means consuming less beverage alcohol. “Less” doesn’t automatically indicate abstaining—many health-conscious people still want to drink at bars and restaurants.
They also want to consume their cocktails in healthier ways. Technomic has put together a list of traditional drink ingredients and their healthier alternatives:
- Chocolate = Carob
- Brown sugar = Piloncillo or panela
- Sugar = Agave, maple syrup and coconut sugar
- Egg = Aquafaba
- High proof = Low ABV
When Technomic surveyed 423 United States bartenders2, nearly half—49 percent—indicated that they believe low-ABV drinks are on an upward trajectory in terms of their trendiness.
Check this out: Mock Cocktails, Real Money: Zero-proof Drinks Bring Big Dollars
The glut of information surrounding low-ABV and zero-proof drinks make it easy to serve the needs of health-conscious, sober curious, and sober guests. There’s no reason operators, bar managers and bartenders can’t have fun creating mocktails and low-proof cocktails. The reality is that ignoring these guests means failing to capture valuable dollars.
Bitter is In & Floral is Favored
Technomic surveyed 1,034 consumers1 and uncovered some interesting tidbits concerning bitter flavors. Younger consumers—those 34 years old and younger—are twice as likely than those 35 years old and older to enjoy bitter flavors.
Check this out: [PODCAST] What are Today's Guests Drinking? It Depends.
Another survey of 1,000 consumers3 identified the following as floral flavors in which consumers are interested:
- Sfumato (smoky and earthy)
- Cardamom (herbal, minty, spicy and citrusy)
- Lavender (floral and pungent)
Creating drinks with bitter and/or floral flavors and aromas can be simpler than some would expect with the help of brand reps.
Impact of Social Media
Social media has had some intriguing effects on our industry. It’s not uncommon now to find Instagrammable design details built into bars, nightclubs and restaurants. The maxim that people drink and eat with their eyes first has changed the way cocktails, spirits, beer, wine and food has been amplified. Consumers want to be wowed by bars and restaurants on social media, and colorful drinks are snapping up likes and shares.
Technomic data4 backs up that last statement. A survey of 1,983 consumers conducted last year revealed that 30 percent of those surveyed find social media posts by restaurants and bars effective for getting them to visit the venue. That number was higher, perhaps unsurprisingly, for Millennials who were surveyed: 41 percent.
Millennials are also more likely than other age groups to learn about drink specials by following and/or friending bars and restaurants. Twenty-six percent of all 1,983 consumers surveyed overall indicated they find out about specials through social media, compared to 35 percent of Millennials.
A very effective way to grab someone’s attention with a cocktail on social media? Color-forward and color-shifting drinks. Turmeric, driven in part by its health benefits, is trending upward as a drink ingredient. It’s eye-catching yellow hues—sometimes referred to as curry coloring—commands attention. The same goes for cocktails made with the brilliantly purple tuber known as ube, a heavily searched hashtag on Instagram. Butterfly pea flower can make a drink shift colors, and activated charcoal combined with edible glitter creates shimmering cocktails.
Check this out: 4 Mobile Applications That Will Supercharge Your Social Media
Consumers who follow bars, restaurants and nightclubs on social media want to see them strut their stuff, showcasing visually appealing drinks that taste as good as they look. They also want to know that there are drinks on the menu they can post to social media to make their followers envious, expanding an operator’s reach if they’re tagged in posts.
…is “new” again, again. The classics are classics for good reason: they’re benchmarks in their own rights. “New” flavors, ingredients, cocktail variants, garnishes, presentations, techniques, beer styles, and wine varietals and products will always manage to steal attention away from the standards, the classics. But replace them? That’s a tall order.
Take, for instance, these beverage alcohol selections identified by Technomic as seeing increased consumer attention:
- Berliner Weisse. Since 2016, sour beer sales at Whole Foods have grown 25 percent.
- Lambrusco. One restaurant in Raleigh, NC, Mulino Italian Kitchen & Bar, has put together a curated Lambrusco menu. Lambrusco is perfect for pairing with pizza, pasta and many other dishes, and it can be “a gateway to the wine world, especially for beer folk who are big into sour beers and wild ales,” according to Tim Kweeder, wine director and GM of Kensington Quarters in Philadelphia. A wine that can be recommended to beer drinkers by bartenders and servers opens up a new revenue stream.
- Eau de vie. The category of unaged brandy distilled from anything but grapes. It’s cliché to say, but eau de vie is having a “moment,” to say the least. This increase in popularity is likely due at least in part to renewed interest in Cognac.
About to Break?
Operators eager to get ahead of trends to leverage them for the longest amount of time possible should look into fat-washed cocktails, drinks featuring acid phosphate, and long-forgotten aperitif called Caperitif.
Fat-washed cocktails have seemed to pop in and out of vogue throughout the past few years, and they may be about to be popular again.
Acid phosphate may seem like a “new” way to imbue a drink with sour without using citrus. The two-word ingredient may also seem a bit “sciencey” to some. However, soda fountains used this ingredient from the 1880s to the 1950s. Drinks made with acid phosphate appeal to guests who want tartness but not the sugar from citrus like lime and lemon.
Check this out: 3 Global Bar Pros Predict 2019 Trends
Finally, we come to the Caperitif. This compelling and sophisticated sip is made by infusing Chenin Blanc with 35 botanicals. Once considered lost, Caperitif “returned” to the bar world three or four years ago and is similar to vermouth, itself receiving a decent amount of consumer attention over the past couple of years. Follow this link to learn more about Caperitif.
1 Technomic Ignite menu data
2 Technomic Behind the Bar Insights
3 Technomic 2017 Flavor Consumer Trend Report
4 Technomic Adult Beverage Planning Program Survey