International beverage alcohol research firm IWSR makes six predictions about major forces driving change in 2018.
What are the drivers that will most affect the beverage alcohol world in 2018? Radius, the IWSR’s global innovation database, has made 6 general predictions. You can read the first installment of industry predictions here, which we published back in January.
First, unfiltered beverages will surge forward.
“Far from being a flaw, ‘cloudiness’ is beginning to denote not just flavor, but a more natural, less tampered with product. When a trailblazing Scottish craft brewer announced the launch of its inaugural spirits range, comprising of both a vodka and a gin, it was adamant the latter was to be unfiltered. Why? Because this ‘means that all of the flavor and spirit complexity remains’, it said.”
Noting that unfiltered is a more familiar concept in beer, the pursuit of creating as clear a liquid as possible has been a fixation of the craft brewing movement. While the process creates a more consistent, shelf-stable product that can linger on store shelves and inside refrigerators, it also strips out flavorful proteins, hop sediment, and yeast.
“Brewers are increasingly marketing beers as unfiltered, communicating to drinkers that the beer is rawer and more flavourful and authentic. And with all of those things being key consumer drivers, we expect an increasing number of players in the ‘unfiltered’ space, most notably when it comes to spirits,” states the Radius report.
Radius also cites moderation as an increasingly important factor.
“With young people shunning alcohol in ever-growing numbers, the impact of a generation of moderate drinkers is having a distinct influence on the type of products being launched. At one extreme end of the spectrum, excessive consumption is no longer seen as an act of rebellion, or rite of passage, and has become distinctly ‘uncool’. And at the other, total abstinence due to health and wellbeing concerns is on the rise. It’s up to the drinks industry to respond.” Trends like low-alcohol cocktails led by sherry, port or vermouth are predicted to increase in popularity, as fortified wines as a whole are being embraced by a new, younger, curious generation.
Third on Radius’ top trends is sparkling everything.
“Sparkling is ripe to become a greater area of exploration. From sparkling gins to bartenders adding carbonation to cocktails, we predict that adding fizz to traditionally flat drinks will become a greater area of exploration. Indeed, it’s already starting to happen. Brands already exploring this space include Kaava Sparkling Gin and sparkling vodka brands such as Le Grand Saint, Nuvo, Camitz, O2 Sparkling Vodka, among others.”
Recent news about cannabis-fortified wines and beers spurred the growth of weed onto the list.
“Though the full legalisation of marijuana is a long way from being achieved, there’s no doubt that it is already shaping the drinks world. Though cannabis-flavoured and infused products are nothing new, Constellation’s recent investment in Canadian medical marijuana company Canopy Growth is the surest sign yet that the trend is about to go mainstream. This puts the drinks giant in a good position should national legalisation in the US occur – something that seems increasingly likely.”
Just last month, Seattle-based Tarukino launched 6 cannabis-infused beverage products containing THC, the mind-altering component of the drug, with the Washington State Liquor Control Board having approved state marketing.
The Radius report also cited color as having a larger impact in 2018, based mainly on the impact of social media on consumers.
“With most people permanently carrying a high-quality camera, and Instagram growing in both reach and influence, we’ve arguably never lived in a more visual culture. A stylised snap posted on the app now has the power to make or break the reputations of both brands and on-trade venues meaning never has so much thought gone into the appearance of what we drink; if it’s not on Instagram, did it even happen?”
Finally, waste looms larger and the pressure to cut back on waste is growing.
“It would be an overstatement to say that waste has dominated the drinks landscape of late, but it’s increasingly informing the conversations we have. And there’s perhaps no market force that has the potential to alter both what we consume and how we consume it as drastically.
“The Trash Tiki movement, pioneered by London bartenders Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage (White Lyan and Dandelyan) in late 2016, has been gaining momentum throughout 2017, highlighting the environmental cost of a cocktail. From over-garnishing to packaging and napkin waste, the duo are asking consumers and bartenders to be mindful of what they consume, and providing guidance on how to re-use cocktail ingredients that would usually be thrown away.”
Venues replacing plastic straws with reusable alternatives and an increasing number of products launched that are made of food waste, from beer made from waste bread to vodka made from unsold baked goods, are among the green-based initiatives Radius cites.