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Today’s drinks industry is bursting with innovation. From ethical shopping trends to exciting new functional ingredients and self-treating through indulgent purchases, there are truly countless ways for fine food retailers to maximise their offering to cater to an array of tastes.
In the latest edition of Drinks Buyer, we explored an A-Z list of the most inspiring trends in the sector today, and here we’ve highlighted how retailers can enjoy success with more than 30 promising options.
Apple has been one of the most popular drink flavours for generations, and no wonder – its British heritage, imagery of picturesque orchards and sharp-yet-sweet flavour ticks a lot of boxes. While locally sourced cloudy apple juice and sparkling cider will always be a popular choice at independents, for 2021 look for revamped options – including Avallen’s sustainable Calvados, made with a ‘bee positive’ attitude at its core.
While consumers get back to nature, so do the drinks options on offer to them. Possibly inspired by the botanics-led gin movement, drinks with botanical leanings satisfy the demand for aromatic beverages which aren’t overly sweet. Wild Nettle may seem a particularly bold choice, but it’s not too far a cry from that classic botanical so loved in cocktails, soft drinks and more: elderflower. Look out for soft drinks, cordials and infused spirits. Learn more about the botanicals trend here.
Modern alcohol-free drinks are a world apart from the questionable products of yesteryear. A vast selection is available for retailers to choose from today, including the classic alcohol-free beers; zero-alcohol wines, such as Noughty Alcohol-Free Chardonnay; playful ready-to-drink cans, like Thomas Teetotal’s Alcohol-Free Aperitif Spritz; and carefully crafted drinks cabinet essentials, like Wilfred’s Aperitif. Discover four more low and no alcohol trends to stock here.
Everyone’s heard about the growth of craft beer – with consumers looking to explore beyond the headliner breweries to uncover smaller, under-the-radar options which tick the boxes around quality, sustainability and story – but what’s next? According to Mintel research, shoppers are set to seek out brands which offer a wider range of flavours, as well as low or no alcohol content.
Micro breweries are popping up all around the UK, and a quick search online may uncover one or two close to you – consider stocking them to really set yourself apart from the multiples, which are starting to up their game in the craft beer arena.
While the closure of drink-in establishments such as pubs and bars was arguably catastrophic for some areas of the sector, it has led to great opportunities for retail. With customers forced to drink at home, retailers gained an advantage: stock great drinks, and become a destination for discerning customers looking to reinvent the bar experience at home.
Display plays a huge role in making the most of this opportunity. Tucked into a quiet corner, even the very best and most vibrant drinks would slip under the radar, so loud and proud display is key. Group drinks together according to occasion – consider options which would be delicious partnered with picnic food; drinks which make an occasion out of a small get together; and beverages which would partner brilliantly with a themed cuisine – and don’t forget to shop around locally for nearby suppliers. With consumers more supportive than ever of their local community, now’s the time to quench their thirst for local.
Like many businesses across the UK, drinks producers are ramping up their efforts to be more environmentally friendly than ever before. From packaging innovations spanning new materials and formats, to supporting litter-picking initiatives and charitable donations to environmental causes, the drinks industry is confidently quenching the thirst of eco-conscious shoppers. Take a leaf out of their book by showcasing the best sustainable options for your customers to shop.
We all know how modern life can sap energy like nobody’s business, and an increasing number of shoppers are looking for ways to up their energy levels without resorting to student deadline-hero Pro Plus or Red Bull. Thankfully, these days there’s a surprisingly wide range of options available. Guarana is an increasingly popular alternative to caffeine, and options offering a health boost as well as an energy jolt from a caffeine/sugar blend are set to be popular with health-conscious consumers. Brands to note include Crave Drinks, Purdey’s and Bottleshot.
Foraged food is one of the biggest trends to come out of lockdown, although it was making big waves in the UK before then – particularly within rural foodie circles – too. Restaurants are shouting about their foraged ingredients, wherever they are based, and drinks producers like Nuisance Drinks are putting it front and centre of their start-up story.
Hugo Morrissey of Nuisance Drinks explains: “As a business, by using ingredients which are so freely available on our doorstep, we hope we can inspire consumers to open their minds to nature and embrace the ingredients all around them – experimenting with food and drink whilst feeling the positive mental and psychological effects that can come with foraging.”
As consumers become increasingly aware of the impact what they consume has on their overall health, the opportunity to sell products which offer more than simply refreshment grows and grows. Look out for superfoods such as acai, turmeric and maca in drinks which offer clearly signposted benefits such as a boost in concentration, sleep and nourishment.
One of the more traditional superfoods, ginger has been renowned for its health-giving properties for centuries. There are plenty of options on the market offering both a delicious spicy kick and health credentials – two boxes shoppers are looking to be ticked – from classic ginger beer (at various heat levels) to Mother Root’s energising Ginger Switchel: a unique blend of pressed ginger juice, blossom honey and organic apple cider vinegar.
Drinks cabinets across the UK are awash with gins of all descriptions – from classic London Dry to fruity or botanical-forward – and while gin has been a trending drink for a few years now, it’s still very much worth space on your shelf. Discover what’s trending in the vast world of gin here.
For generations, honey has been considered a delicious and healing staple of the storecupboard, and these days its taste and health properties are being explored in the drinks market, too. From mead (more on that at number 17) to honey and superfood-infused beverages, the options out there are satisfyingly varied. Explore the honey trend in more detail here.
In a year which has seen the health of the world making daily headlines, it’s only natural that consumers will do what they can to boost their own wellbeing. There are plenty of healthy options out there as the drinks market has adeptly pivoted to suit this timely consumer demand; whether you’re looking for low-sugar options, drinks boasting superfood ingredients, healthier versions of traditional favourites or functional beverages which offer a boost in concentration/energy/sleep (the list goes on), your customers’ thirst for healthy drinks will well and truly be quenched.
While shoppers are more aware than ever of the high quantities of sugar that can be in some fruit juices and smoothies, the health credentials of no-added sugar and vitamin-packed options still ring true. According to Statista’s research, the UK juice market is set to be worth well over £2bn in 2021.
Keep an eye out for drinks with additional vitamins and minerals, or that include vegetables as well as fruit – we’re thinking Coldpress Mango Passionfruit Super Smoothie, James White Classic British Carrot Juice or Cotchel Braeburn Apple Juice.
Bubbly kombucha is a non-alcoholic option well worth stocking up on. Experimental and nutritional, it’s a feel-good purchase that’s gaining popularity in the UK after growing exponentially across the pond in the US market. Why not give it a try in your shop?
The no and low alcohol trend exploded over 2020 and 2021, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down, with consulting company GlobalData calling the 2020s the ‘decade of no and low spirits’. With more and more consumers looking to moderate their alcohol intake, low-ABV versions of beer, cider, seltzer and wine are all in high demand.
It’s thought to be the world’s oldest beverage, but it is as fashionable as ever in 2021. Having regained steam over the last few years – English Heritage said sales increased by an average of 10% year-on-year from 2016-2018 – there are now enough mead makers throughout the UK for connoisseurs – and shop owners – to raise a glass to.
Thanks to the pandemic, consumers have fostered a newfound appreciation for home mixology over the past year. This not only calls for high-quality spirits and aperitifs, but also game-changing mixers. Gone are the days when any ordinary tonic water would do. From those made with locally sourced spring water to revamped flavours such as hibiscus or chilli, when it comes to modern classics, quality is key. High-end colas, fresh-squeezed lemonades and fiery ginger beers are the tastebud tinglers of the day.
As the average consumer begins to adopt a healthier mindset towards food and drink following the pandemic, key descriptors like ‘natural’ will be in the spotlight. Drinks marketed as natural are made up of ingredients that, put simply, can be found in nature. These drinks don’t rely on chemicals or technologies, but instead take a pared back approach and let nature’s ingredients do the talking.
Whether or not you’re familiar with the word, every retailer will be aware of at least one nootropic substance: caffeine. Nootropics are brain-boosting supplements which are part of the functional drinks world, and they’re becoming ever more popular in drink products. Other popular nootropic substances are ginseng or L-Theanine, which are said to improve cognitive functions like memory or creativity.
The UK’s organic market saw its highest rate of growth in 15 years in 2020, according to the Soil Association’s Organic Market Report 2021. “In times of crisis, people are turning to organic products for the assurance of transparency, integrity and quality they provide,” said Finn Cottle, trade consultant at Soil Association Certification. Beer, wines and spirits showed the strongest growth, with sales rising nearly 33%, making them a must-stock.
The enduring appeal of the Aperol Spritz, with its iconic, deep hue, speaks to consumers’ love of all things orange and boozy. Drinks giants have certainly noticed, with Chandon’s newly released orange-flavoured Garden Spritz and Cîroc’s limited edition citrus summer vodka launching this year. Look out for local takes on these big brands’ drinks.
With plant-based diets becoming more and more popular among today’s consumer – the number of vegans in Britain quadrupled between 2014 and 2019, according to a survey commissioned by The Vegan Society – retailers will find that many shoppers are taking a closer look at drinks that tout added protein, a nutrient that some vegan diets lack. Shoppers are bulking up with enhanced coffee drinks, jazzed up alt-milks and classic protein smoothies and shakes.
Today, consumers are increasingly keen to support their local businesses, and for shoppers who are willing to spend slightly more on premium products, provenance is of the utmost importance. Brands that showcase local ingredients in all their glory or tell the story of an entrepreneur who restarted their career just to make this particular product will be noticed by conscious customers.
How can retailers capitalise on a product’s provenance? Seek out locally made products, as consumers have a natural inclination to food and drink from areas they know and love; take to social media and tell the stories of your small suppliers – by shining a light on their stories they will come to life for consumers; show your customers behind the scenes – whether it’s videos from your shop or suppliers’ farms or kitchens, this can build trust with your consumers.
Consumers’ perception of what a ‘quality drink’ looks like is changing as packaging formats receive a modern revamp. According to Waitrose’s Food and Drink Report 2021, “Wine in cans, cocktails in post-friendly sachets and bag in box wine have all pushed the boundaries of how people expect to buy good-quality drinks. This trend will only continue as we see more innovation in the industry,” it says.
The rise of rum has made this spirit a perennial favourite on drink trends lists, but in 2020 it came into its own as the Wine and Spirit Trade Association crowned it the drink of lockdown. Rum sales grew the most of any spirit during the Covid-19 lockdown. This is certainly an area for retailers to explore more in-depth.
RTDs, as they’re known in the industry, are a breakaway trend of recent years. The Wine and Spirit Trade Association noted that gin and tonics and cocktails in cans, as well as trendy hard seltzers, saw a 23% increase in sales in 2020 over the previous year. The category has almost doubled in value compared to five years ago.
Sustainability qualities were once a ‘nice to have’, but to today’s discerning consumers, choosing planet-friendly drink products is a must. In the UK, data from Google found that 55% of people say it has become more important for companies to behave sustainably due to Covid. That means producers and retailers alike should be putting eco credentials front and centre. This could be ethically sourced organic ingredients or a packaging revamp to shun plastics. However they do it, brands that put environmental credentials at the heart of their products will benefit.
Covid-19 sparked a revival of nostalgic and retro flavours. Comforting, familiar recipes were found to set consumers at ease during an unprecedented global pandemic. But classic flavours aside, traditional-style drinks, such as Shandy Shack’s Elderflower Lager Top, are also staging impressive comebacks, especially among younger consumers. The best way to please the masses? A hearty mix of innovative, trend-led flavour combinations, steadfast classics and modern reinventions of traditional favourites.
From boosting immunity to supporting gut health, apple cider vinegar boasts a wide array of health claims. These credentials have seen it becoming a familiar ingredient on the labels of drinks brands. Innovative producers have mixed in fresh flavours to mask the strong vinegar taste with everything from fiery ginger to refreshing lemon and sweet berries.
As of 2019, vodka was the biggest spirits category in the UK at £3bn, according to figures from Statista, making it a must-stock for retailers. However, while non-flavoured vodka accounts for the vast majority of those sales, consumers are increasingly intrigued by flavoured versions, led by the profusion of flavoured gins to hit the market in recent years.
What’s more, craft makers are finally receiving the attention they deserve as shoppers move away from the bigger brands and firm favourites to try something new and innovative. According to Technavio, the craft vodka market is expected to rise by around 30% per year by 2023. From delicate flavours of rose to sweet rhubarb and refreshing mint, there are plenty of premium options for retailers to explore
According to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association’s latest market report, over 2020, sales of wine from Argentina rocketed 41% compared to the previous year. In 2016, the group found that UK wine drinkers bought fewer than 7 million bottles of Argentinian wine, but last year Brits bought a staggering 50 million bottles. Meanwhile, volume sales of rosé shot up 22% with more than 113 million bottles sold, compared to just 22 million in 2016.
But local varieties are still firm favourites here in the UK, and retailers should look out for the 2019 vintage. “The quality of the 2019 vintage of English and Welsh wines is the best we’ve ever seen and this, combined with the increase in popularity of English and Welsh reds – particularly lighter styles – make a bumper year for home-grown wine,” said Jamie Matthewson, wine buying manager at Waitrose.
New and improved citrus flavours are taking over the drinks market, from yuzu to blood orange and mandarin to pink grapefruit. Originating from East Asia, yuzu is the most exotic, and thus the most sought-after. Frequently blended with mint, lemon and ginger, it’s refreshing and slightly floral, and has made an appearance in a number of new drink launches, including Happy Inside’s Lemon Yuzu and Ginger.
Consumers’ growing interest in health food has fuelled a rise in ‘zero’ anything and everything. Zero preservatives, zero sugar, zero calories, zero additives – and that’s just the beginning. Innovation is booming in the UK for zero sugar in particular. So long as drinks still pack a punch of flavour, consumers are happy to look out for ‘zero’.
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