Free digital copy
Get Speciality Food magazine delivered to your inbox FREEGet your free copy
Discover 6 essential food trends here.
Today’s drinks market is filled with exciting innovations when it comes to flavour, format and function, and this summer, the revival of outdoor gatherings is set to send the hottest products flying off retailers’ shelves.
Despite the growth in at-home mixology that the food and drink sector has witnessed since the start of the pandemic, the last 12 months have also proved the unstoppable rise of non-alcoholic beverages.
“Being at home more has made people more conscious of the excesses in their diet, particularly around alcohol,” said Mike Hardman, marketing manager at wholesaler Alliance Online. “Expect to see more people looking for summer beverages that fit in with this, such as mocktails containing alcohol-free spirits and low-calorie alcoholic beverages.”
Stuart Elkington, owner of the Dry Drinker, Britain’s leading retailer for alcohol-free drinks, believes that no and low alcohol will play a big part in this summer’s favourite tipples. “I’ve seen first-hand how consumer preference has changed. People now expect alcohol-free choices and yet, very often, there isn’t the choice available in cafés, bars, restaurants, clubs, etc,” Stuart said. “On the other hand we’ve had many independent trade establishments contacting us because they want to offer better, more interesting alcohol-free alternatives but they don’t know where to start!”
Not only are new no-alcohol spirits, beers and aperitifs being launched from the likes of alcohol-free specialists like Everleaf, Lyre’s and Impossibrew Co, but traditional drinks brands are also getting in on the action. For instance, premium ready-to-drink (RTD) brand Thomas Tipple has just launched a new Aperitif Spritz which includes a Thomas Teetotal alcohol-free version.
“Also growing in popularity are alcoholic versions of healthy drinks, like hard seltzer (carbonated water and alcohol) and hard kombucha (alcoholic fermented cold tea),” says Mike. Indeed, hard seltzers and kombuchas have exploded in popularity over the past few years, with brands such as Whisp, Bootleg Booch and Good One just some of the indie names embodying this trend.
Nick Graham, co-founder of hard seltzer brand Berczy agreed that Brits are becoming more conscious of what they put in their bodies, “whether that be our calorie intake, sugar intake, or removing additives and chemicals from our products”.
He continued, “This really started with the traffic light system used on food products to give the customer a view of macronutrients vs. recommended daily allowances. Nutritional clarity has always lagged behind in the world of alcohol though.” Brands like Berczy, he said, are changing this. “Customers want to know the impact a product may have on them before making purchasing decisions, and giving the customer this clarity upfront is imperative. Over time this will only become more important.”
Charlie Brake, the founder of hard seltzer brand Naughty Water, agreed that the “increased interest in health and a younger consumer being more health conscious, needs to form part of the retailer’s thinking”.
However, it’s not only alcohol brands that are active in this space. Number1 Beverages makes a gin seltzer as well as still and sparkling “water with benefits” enhanced with vitamins. Research conducted by Bayes & Becker on behalf of Number1 Beverages found that 31% of adults were looking for healthier choices, and three-quarters said water containing vitamins would be “on trend”. “This is a great indicator that healthier drinks options will continue to be extremely popular this summer,” said founder Simon Gook.
As lockdown restrictions lift, Naughty Water’s Charlie believes consumers will be on the hunt for “longer, refreshing and simple-to-serve drinks”.
Berczy’s Nick, agrees that the RTD format will be one to watch this summer. “Quite simply, on the back of the past year in and out of lockdown, people will feel more comfortable eating and drinking outside. The ability to make drinks from scratch in bar/pub environments is more difficult when they can’t be served indoors, so cans offer a number of benefits. They are hyper portable so can be easily taken to a BBQ or picnic, they are ready to drink so you don’t have to spend time finding the perfect measure for a gin & tonic or vodka soda, and they are easily recyclable, whilst being simple to dispose of,” he told Speciality Food.
Consumers are no longer only concerned about what their drinks are doing to their bodies, but they’re also seriously considering the ethics of the brands they purchase.
“We’re seeing that citizens are becoming increasingly aware that their purchase choices have real environmental consequences,” said Stephanie Jordan, co-founder of Avallen, a sustainable calvados which says it is on a mission to be the most planet-positive spirit. “Citizens will be looking for products that not only align with their beliefs and have a positive impact on our planet but also make for delicious, guilt-free sipping,” she continued.
For retailers, it is increasingly important to consider the ethical leaning of the brands filling their shelves. “It’s a collaborative effort for us to build a future that offers delicious drinks choices alongside a flourishing natural environment. We think it’s vital for retailers to offer citizens sustainable choices that don’t compromise on flavour.” Brands are increasingly boosting their efforts to reduce the impact of their packaging and their environmental footprint, so seeking them out is easier than ever before.
As well as their drive to consumer low-impact drinks, consumers are increasingly searching for British-made brands, leading to growing popularity of English wines, and spirits distilled around the British Isles.
“The British climate, especially in the south of England is now ideal for ripening grapes, year upon year, that have the perfect balance of sugars and acidity for champagne or traditional method, bottle fermented sparkling wine,” explained Mark Driver, co-owner of Sussex-based Rathfinny Wine Estate. “English sparkling wines have won more awards in international blind tastings than any other region in the world over the last eight years. Hence the reason why they are now a must have on the wine lists in the top hotels, bars and restaurants. So why not celebrate a great British summer with a Great British product?”
The easing of Covid restrictions means this summer will be one to celebrate – and you can help your customers do just that by stocking the season’s must-have drinks.
Stay connected and receive the latest news, analysis and insights from our industry's top commentators