The last year completely changed the beverage industry. Bars have collapsed in favor of home consumption. Consumers drank more, or not at all, fueling a wave of alcohol-free options. Hard Seltzer went up, then fell, then paved the way for a whole slew of creative RTDs. Sustainability has continued to become an increasingly important part of the conversation, while a proliferation of online ordering options has made ordering alcohol easier than ever.
So what’s gonna happen? Experts predict key trends in the beverage industry for the season, from the next step for RTD to a big time for classic cocktails.
Spirits of agave
“One of the biggest success stories of the past few years has been the tequila and mezcal explosion,” says Zach Kameron, beverage director of Peak in Hudson Yards. “The tequila you get today is incredibly better than the tequila you got 10 years ago, so as the market matures people are looking for better quality products that have high purity of expression.” He notes that Peak recently received new versions of Clase Azul – the bottles sold out before they even hit the menu. “This kind of commitment with allocated products is normally only seen with fine wines and whiskeys, so the current trend in agave spirits is definitely one towards quality appreciation.”
“The tequila category has grown exponentially due to increasing consumer interest in alcohol and we expect this trend to continue through 2021 and beyond,” corroborates Sean Eckhardt, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Sales, Bacardi North America.. “Spirits made from tequila and agave appeal to a diverse clientele. In the United States, we’ve seen a shift in the perception of tequila from a festive spirit to a sophisticated sipping set that can now accompany single malts, as well as a base alcohol for some of the most popular cocktails. popular like margarita, old-fashioned, negroni and Paloma.
“I think tequila and agave spirits will continue to dominate the market,” said Julian Cox, director of beverages at Boom Bang Fine Foods & Cocktails in Las Vegas. “Safeguards on popular spirits due to COVID will continue to increase demand for agave as well as other hard-to-find imports in this pandemic environment.”
“On our side,” says Gary Wallach, food and beverage manager at Arlo SoHo, “we’ve seen the rise of lesser-known agaves and adjacent agave spirits such as Baconara, Raicilla and Sotol (the one we transport to Rattlesnake in the production process), artisanal mezcals and distinctions by region. “
“Over the past year and a half, people have turned to the brands they know and trust. We have seen this trend of mindset strongly among our existing and new consumers for our global family of premium spirits brands, ”said Eckhardt of Bacardi. “The fastest growing categories were tequila, brandy and bourbon. We’ve seen these categories grow both in liquor stores and grocery stores, and through digital commerce with sites like Drizly, InstaCart, and Cocktail Courier, which have become a new channel for many consumers to buy. easily cocktails and spirits. “
Drink in cool weather
“Typically, as fall and the holiday season approaches, we see growth in whiskey, red wine and sparkling wine, as well as seasonal flavors of beer, cider and spirits – inspired apple, pumpkin, cinnamon and desserts, ”says Brandy Rand, COO of the Americas at IWSR Beverage Market Analysis. “A lot of the current trends we’ve seen in RTDs, especially pre-mixed cocktails and tequila, are likely to continue. The change in consumption occasions as the football season approaches and home entertaining is important for the fall, especially with the cocktail brewing, so expect to see higher experiences at parties and of meetings. This is also part of the continued upward trend, or premiumization, which accelerated during Covid-19 in many alcohol sub-segments. “
“Nowadays more and more of my guests at my Kumiko bar in Chicago are asking for spirits-free drinks and I think they’re delighted that there are more options than ever before,” says Julia Momose, partner and creative director of Kumiko. “Beer makers in particular have had to improve their alcohol-free beer flavor profiles to attract younger consumers, who are increasingly reducing their alcohol consumption. I see a much wider range of non-alcoholic options (my favorite, ALL-FREE) and I love watching people discover them and add them to their beverage repertoire.
“Sobriety seems to be in fashion! Said Sarah Crowl, bar manager at Rosie Cannonball in Houston. “In particular, cocktails without spirits consumed between drink tours in social settings.”
Ready to drink
“Ready-to-drink (RTD) is one of the fastest growing categories of spirits,” Eckhardt says, “with an acceleration of 171% over the past year.”
“The RTD category is booming with a wide variety of new players and explosive product development,” said Ignacio Llaneza, vice president of brand and trade marketing at Disaronno International LLC. “Decades ago the category was much smaller and consisted of high sugar, less natural options that paled compared to traditional cocktails. Now, the RTD category has evolved into higher quality, on par with premiumization trends. The growth of RTDs had already flared up before but accelerated further as everyone took shelter in place. As consumers continue to research different ways for home entertainment and / or on-the-go options, RTDs will continue to thrive. Drizly has seen the category grow 60% in 2021 to date compared to the same period in 2020, with brands innovating rapidly to meet demand.
That said, Kenny Richards, CEO and Founder of Halyard Brewing Company, believes the RTD market must be smart to survive. “Canned cocktails are practical, not innovative, and seltzer water is starting to level off. Craft beer is generally on the decline, and according to recent analysis data, the same is true for wine and spirits. The growing trends right now are dominated by innovation, and in this innovation, I think we’re going to see consumers continue to look to products with transparent ingredients, artisanal processes, low sugar and deliciousness. grindable liquid. ”
Supply chain barriers
Monstrous tariffs are no longer the order of the day as the feud between the US and the EU recedes. But producers and importers still face major obstacles in the supply chain
“We have existed in a world where the ingredients are of global origin. During the pandemic we have seen the disruption of the supply chain – how fast items arrive, what items are no longer available or less readily available, how prices have changed, ”says Alba Huerta, owner of Julep in Houston. “For example, in Houston, cognac is three times more expensive than before COVID-19, but we have plenty of rum. “
“Many industry veterans are happy to see tariffs disappear, but current supply chain issues and in particular competition for the shipping container space are putting a major damper on the excitement,” Jordan said. Abraham, the manager of the GOZU bar. “The exponential increases in shipping container prices are driving up the prices of many imports and in many cases just don’t make it. One trend that I think we’re going to see (and that we’re seeing right now) is product shortages and many of our most beloved bottles aren’t available for long periods of time (we’re already seeing this with champagne, sake, shochu, and nocino). We are trying to source the bottles which we think will eventually become a challenge to get, for example, sake, whiskey and champagne from small producers, and unfortunately I think we will see an increase in bottle prices and a decrease in availability at all levels.
“I’ve noticed the tendency for people to come back to bars for classic cocktails, whether it’s a riff on a classic or a liquor,” says Milosz Cieslak, chief mixologist at Grandmaster Recorders. from Hollywood.
Chetan Gangan from Baar Baar in New York agrees. “I think the classics are coming back into fashion, instead of having menus with all the original cocktails. It doesn’t mean that there is no creativity or craftsmanship, but I noticed that bar programs focus on classics and making as best they can. I think there is also a big wave of gin lovers. Take Gin & Tonic, for example. Customers are starting to take G&T seriously – having a preference for gin, and even the type of tonic, I have seen around 10-15 new gin brands / distilleries open in the last couple of years.
Responsible production wine
“While natural wine is nothing new, it is growing in popularity, accessibility and consumer awareness, especially for young drinkers,” says Ian Asbury, owner and founder of Good Clean Fun. “It’s about applying old-fashioned techniques to make contemporary wines and spirits safe to drink and good for you and the planet wherever possible. Georgian natural winemakers swear their wine is crucial with food as it contributes to food bioavailability and better absorption of antioxidants in wine!
“In the fall, the environment will remain a primary consideration affecting consumer behavior. We will see greater consumer demand for an honest commitment to environmental responsibility from the brands they love, with labeling such as “sustainably certified” or “organic,” says Zidanelia Arcidiacono, Pinot Noir winemaker at Sonoma-Cutrer. “This transparency will have an impact on purchasing decisions as consumers will choose brands and products that match their values and principles.”