DRINKING GOES MINDFUL

From moderation
initiatives to breaking the taboo of teetotalism, the trend will gather further
momentum, reach critical mass and enter the realms of a paradigm shift.

Proving to be
secular rather than cyclical it will incorporate an ever widening spectrum of
lower alcohol and adult soft drinks finding relevance in equal non-intoxicating
measures in mature markets from South Korean spirits to Western European beer
and beyond.

Smaller pack sizes
and serving options, production advances allowing for more sophisticated and
balanced products than first generation de-alcoholised offerings and synthetic
prototypes focusing on compounds minimising alcohol toxicity while claiming
functional benefits will all radically disrupt established positioning,
occasions and legislative developments.

The rise of
cannabis as a healthier substitution alternative will only accelerate the
shift.

DO ALCOHOLIC DRINKS DREAM OF ELECTRONIC BARTENDERS?

The dawn of a brave
new world is upon us: from integrated voice enabled devices allowing for
seamless recommendations, shopping and educational initiatives to augmented
reality labels and Near Field Communication technology transforming products
into content hubs and digital touchpoints.

As the historic
fetishisation of nostalgia – tinged offerings reaches saturation territory
while losing relevance to the ever more important millennial demographic,
alcoholic drinks will go back to the future.

Spectrometry
sensors, voice activated decanters, smart bottles and the rise of the internet
of drinks will lead to further exploration of multisensory experiences,
customisation functionality and new occasions.

E-TAILING COMING OF AGE

Historically
suffering from complacency and traditionalism-induced inertia and the
labyrinthine-tiered distribution barriers still gripping key markets like the
US, e-tailing is shifting fast from experimental adolescence to tried and
tested maturity.

While online sales
will – at least initially – favour macro offerings, online private label and
fantasy brand exclusives will become the next disruptor forcing manufacturers
to either establish their own virtual presence or collaborate with a third
party on-line titan.

Alongside maturity
comes sophistication. Luxury online presence, pavilions and delivery services
will add value and aspirational cues to a format historically associated with
convenience, while developing markets will witness new levels
of accessibility on the back of revamped and tailored e-tailing models.

CROSS POLLINATION, HYBRIDS AND BLURRING CATEGORY
LINES

From combining
lager and ale yeast strains to radical barrel ageing amalgamations, and from
cascade hops in gin to fusion whiskeys incorporating Indian, Scotch and
international blends, innovation will mirror the promiscuous nature of that all
elusive yet core Millennial demographic.

Both cross-category
and intra-category hybrids will gain further traction providing a halo effect
and maintaining consumer engagement.

Some of the most
intoxicating opportunities may well lie in between categories instead of inside
them.

MARKETING EVOLVES, CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY TAKES
CENTRE STAGE

It is last orders
for shots of monolithic aspirational materialism – as consumers turn to sipping
and savouring brands’ ethical credentials.

The end of
gender-based marketing and a transition towards non-binary and gender-neutral
positioning – a far cry from the machismo driven campaigns of the past –
reaching out to politically-engaged core audiences that make belief-driven
decisions on issues ranging from LGBT rights to the environment.

Hyper-local
advertising campaigns, tailored for specific neighbourhoods and demographics
and supporting local communities, will all drastically disrupt established
positioning and promotional rules.

GLASS HALF FULL?

While
premiumisation, aspirational consumption and increasingly more sophisticated
palates allow for a relatively buoyant and optimistic short to medium-term
outlook, downside risks remain.

Complacency and the
faith in the infinite and linear growth mantras have proven to be disastrous in
the past, while the severe volatility hitting markets from China to Russia to
Nigeria provides fitting cautionary tales.

A potential deceleration
of premium dynamics could hence hit developing markets facing black swan events
as much as it could derail the growth curve in mature markets facing yet
another cyclical downturn.

Diversification in
category, geographical and positioning terms will provide the essential safety
valve for an industry under increasing pressure.

IS THE GRASS GREENER? CANNABIS AND THE SUBSTITUTION
CONUNDRUM

As legalisation
initiatives gather further traction and alcohol manufacturers hesitantly
embrace the rising green tide through ambitious R&D and still embryonic
M&A activity, cannabis will increasingly monopolise the spotlight.

From pot to plate
events to cannabis infusions, and from weed pairing wine clubs to Budtenders*,
buzzy strains, appellations and artisanal offerings entering the industry’s
lexicon, cannabis will enter the mainstream in alcohol’s semantic mantle.

Female, higher
income and Hispanic consumers in the pioneering US market already appear to
showcase lower rates of cannabis incidence and will be the alcohol industry’s
chosen focus and de facto last line of defence – but, in the medium to
long-term, symbiotic offerings will be the only viable solution.

Alcohol-free
products, drawing parallels to terpenes and non-psychoactive cannabis flavour
sophistication, will spearhead innovation on that front, led by enthusiastic
micro producers willing to take the inevitable risks and pave the way for bolder
hybrid products.

* A recreational or
medical cannabis dispensary worker who sells and is knowledgeable about various
marijuana products.

Source: FoodBev