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It’s been another year of thirst-quenching innovation, with an array of exciting new talent flooding into the sector, refreshing discerning drinkers across the UK.
Read on to discover this year’s trending drinks, and to find our picks of the best brands to stock – from family favourites to new kids on the block – download Drinks Buyer for free.
The demand for super-premium spirits including craft and artisanal varieties has increased among global consumers. Indeed, the artisan drinks industry is indisputably thriving in the UK, driven by the increasing number of craft spirit distilleries.
“Artisan drinks can command a higher premium than other household brands as many contain unusual ingredients or are specially sourced,” says Conrad Ford, founder of Funding Options. Consumers are looking for products created using natural or organic flavours such as:
• Natural spices
• Fresh citrus
Small-scale brands that promote and market clean-label ingredients and broadcast their mission-driven initiatives in their local associations will also perform well on shelves.
From pales and IPAs to lagers and porters, beer is a reliable seller in independent retail. In the last decade, the craft beer scene in Britain has exploded – with an estimated 2,000 operating breweries creating the latest and greatest in beer. According to Statistica, the beer sector is projected to grow by 7.81% between 2023 and 2027, meaning there is plenty of scope to cash in.
Use your USP to curate a range that differentiates you from the multiples – if your store champions local produce, why not highlight some local craft breweries and pair with snacks or cheeses from your area? “Meal pairing suggestions are relevant to driving usage occasions and can serve to encourage trading up where craft/premium products are recommended,” says Alice Baker, senior research analyst at Mintel.
Cold brew coffee is steeped in cold or room-temperature water over a long period of time, in contrast to conventional coffee which is brewed in hot water. The steeping process can take anywhere from eight to 24 hours, so it’s a labour of love that brings out the subtle nuances of the beans used.
As a quintessentially British beverage, cider will always be a great seller, especially during the summer months. With consumers focusing on value, provenance and sustainability in the cost-of-living crisis, it is important to champion brands filling this brief, while offering variety.
“Premium, crafted ciders will continue to grow the category, as consumers seek value and quality in 2023, and flavoured ciders stabilise at one-third of the category,” says Darryl Hinksman, head of business development at Westons Cider.
Long gone are the days of ‘mother’s ruin’ spirits; these days, distilled drinks come in all shapes, sizes, colours and flavours. Explore our favourite distilled drinks in Drinks Buyer 2023, and don’t forget low/no alcohol varieties – we particularly like Feragaia and Bax Botanics.
With the environment a more vital consideration than ever before when it comes to stocking – and shopping – decisions, be on the lookout for products which offer eco credentials. If a brand makes efforts to be beneficial to the environment, such as offsetting carbon, planting trees or fighting food waste, you’ll be onto a winner in 2023. Explore more insight on sustainability in the food and drink sector.
Universally appealing, fruity numbers are great products to have in your drinks arsenal. Think juices, wines and fruit-enhanced sparkling beverages, and you’ll be stocking for success all year long. Brands with sustainable ingredients will also do well, so consider the provenance of the product and shout about its credentials.
The global market for functional drinks continues to expand. According to Grand View Research the global digestive health products market size was valued at $47.8bn in 2022. Consumers are looking for drinks that provide gut health benefits, from pre and probiotics and anti-inflammatory properties to immune support.
Gins have dominated retailers’ spirits shelves and aisles for years, and with good reason. While the gin boom may be slowing down for some, there’s still an impressive array of options out there to suit every palate, so stock up and cash in.
Just like the hot honey trend, spicy drinks are rising in popularity, and speciality retailers have a key opportunity to stock high-quality products that provide some zing. Try stocking products using these ingredients to wake up your customers’ taste buds:
With worldwide travel back on the agenda, UK shoppers are not only enjoying revisiting favourite flavours from pre-pandemic times, but are seeking out exciting new taste experiences too. Global flavours have provided inspiration across the industry and made their way into both the alcohol and soft drinks categories. Asian influences in particular are proving popular, with tea and grains from different regions coming through in new launches. Stocking ideas for 2023 include Tarsier Oriental Pink Gin and Thompson’s Baijiu.
While the gin craze may have slightly slowed down, giving way to new spirits on the block, the common juniper berry is still a top flavour for spirit connoisseurs. The evergreen conifer provides a very British flavouring among a host of exotic spices imported to distilleries from warmer climes. Stock up on juniper-rich beverages like Sacred Juniper Gin and Belvoir Farm’s Non-Alcoholic J&T to cash in.
Finding success thanks to the boom in functionality, health-consciousness and experimentation, kombucha has been a popular alternative to sugar-laden soft drinks for a few years now – and its sales show no signs of waning. There are myriad flavours to stock, from straight-up classic to ginger or fun and fruity.
Britain loves lager. Despite the craft brewing-fuelled rise of 50 shades of beer, lager has, for several decades, had the largest chunk of the UK beer market by some distance. According to Mintel, lager accounts for an estimated 75% of total value sales for the UK beer market. Make sure you have a steady supply for all drinking occasions.
From kefir to milkshakes and plant-based cream liqueurs, there are plenty of milk-based beverages on the market to stock up on and sell for luxury drinking occasions. Make sure you’re covering all bases for successful stocking and perform tasting experiences so customers can try your premium products.
“Immune support claims are one of the flourishing consumer trends among dairy drink launches, as Covid-19 continues to make preventative health a bigger priority for consumers,” says Amrin Walji, senior innovation analyst at Mintel.
The rise of at-home cocktail-making throughout lockdown and beyond meant that shoppers are keeping their eyes out for interesting mixers; a mass-produced Indian Tonic Water as the only choice at a party just won’t cut it anymore. Look for flavourful tonic waters, and quality soft drinks – think ginger beers and lemonades – and options that are ready to be blended with a spirit.
The UK is leading the way with no-added-sugar food and drink launches, according to research from Mintel. Innovation is booming in this market, with producers looking at alternatives to sugar including plant-based sweetener Stevia and functional fibres such as inulin. As customers increasingly look for healthier options, stocking a wide range of no-added-sugar drinks will target conscious consumers and ensure everyone is catered for.
The enduring appeal of the Aperol Spritz, with its iconic hue, speaks to consumers’ love of all things orange. In fact, orange juice is the most popular juice produced by industry operators and accounts for approximately 51.3% of industry revenue, according to IBIS World. With plenty of scope to cash in, independent retailers should look for high-quality juices and options with a unique twist to round off their selection.
Delis, farm shops and food halls are all about doing it better – offering quality alternatives to popular beverages (as well as inspiring customers to try something a little different) – and artisan, premium quality soft drinks are a great way to do just that. We suggest keeping stock of the classics like lemonade, elderflower and cola year-round, and going big on seasonal flavours when the time strikes. For example, blood orange options from January to March, rhubarb in spring, and full-blown tropical and berry flavours in summer, will tempt discerning shoppers who otherwise might not opt for a fizzy drink.
The plant-based market shows no sign of slowing down, with increasing numbers of UK shoppers seeing vegan alternatives to conventional meat and dairy products as healthy and sustainable. Launches in the plant-based drinks market continue to outpace those of dairy milk, as producers tackle consumer concerns about their taste, according to research by Mintel.
To make the most of this demand, offer a range of coconut, oat and almond ‘milk’-based drinks, as each one has its own devoted crowd.
While the cornerstones of quality drinks are well known to all indie fine food and drink retailers, think outside the box – to the packaging itself – for smart sales. “Premiumisation can help packaging visually disrupt and has been making a splash in the drinks industry for the last decade. Packaging and bottle design must reinforce the premium experience,” says Renan Joel, managing director of packaging at EasyFairs.
“When consumers are told how good or how popular a product is among a certain demographic or regionality, their perception of the quality of that product is positively influenced, regardless of the claim’s veracity. The alcohol industry has seen consumer demand trend toward more premium products, with consumers opting for quality over quantity.”
The Covid-19 pandemic saw a heartwarming return to classic flavour combinations and tastes from our collective childhoods, and these flavours are still as popular today.
Think of jars of confections lined up in old-fashioned sweet shops and the kind of desserts that would be served at a family Sunday lunch, and you’ll be on the right lines. Rhubarb and custard fizzy drinks, toffee apple spirits, and pastry-inspired beverages - the craft sector is your friend here – are sure to appeal to comfort-seeking shoppers who have a taste for novelty.
Whatever the occasion, RTD formats offer the perfect solution to drinking on the go. Summer is the perfect opportunity for your RTD selection to shine – with picnics, barbecues and day trips to the beach filling up calendars, ready-mixed cocktails and other luxe beverages will add a sense of occasion to even the most casual of al fresco gatherings.
While seltzer itself is a simple combination of water and carbonation, the great news for adventurous shoppers – and the retailers who supply them – is that there has never been a better time to dive into the options.
Hard seltzers, such as Northern Ireland’s White Claw range, Berczy and Whisp, are a refreshing alternative to RTD cocktails, while conventional seltzers tend to be less sweet than other carbonated soft drinks – making them a delicious alternative to standard soft drinks for discerning adults.
Effervescent drinks bring a sense of fun and occasion to any gathering, but it’s not all about fizzy soft drinks. Think outside the box towards RTD adult tipples, internationally inspired options and must-stock waters to satisfy your customers’ thirst for levelled-up bubbles.
Tequila is enjoying a quiet boom in 2023. While it may not be grabbing the headlines that gin did a few years ago, it’s undoubtedly enjoying a rise in interest. According to the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, volume sales of tequila rose by 83% in 2022 compared with 2020, and value sales jumped 93%.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of ways to get in on the trend – from bottles of the pure good stuff ready to be made into tailored drinks at home, to RTD cocktails and flavoured spirits. We particularly rate Neurita’s citrus tequila
While there is, undoubtedly, a refreshing amount of innovation being seen across the artisan drinks sector, there will always be a place for traditional options. Classics are family favourites for generations with good reason – whether they provide a welcome dose of nostalgia, are particularly versatile, or simply offer a perfect balance of what shoppers are looking for, they’re well worth stocking.
The good news is, there’s plenty of options to choose from, such as cola, cloudy lemonade, milkshakes and classic beers, wines and spirits; traditional drinks are sure to provide a solid base for your drinks selection.
If you’re reading this, chances are that you want to stand out not just from the supermarkets, but from your more direct competitors too. A unique product range is the perfect way to do this; take a look around at your local competition’s drinks offering and see where the holes you could fill are. Are there local producers of soft drinks, beers or spirits, or nearby vineyards whose products would fit into your range? By standing out from the crowd in this way, everybody wins.
Still a top seller in the white spirits category according to Mintel, vodka has mass appeal. In fact, 50% of the top 10 most popular cocktails in the UK contain vodka. There is plenty of scope to cash in by offering a variety of premium flavoured and pure vodkas for cocktail making, sipping and mixing, so make sure you have a well-rounded selection in 2023.
Whisky is currently having a renaissance. While still a spirit steeped in tradition, consumers are also looking for exotic flavours in their whisky, such as pineapple, to help them travel the world in a glass. Additionally, whisky drinkers are getting younger, as more millennials jump on the sophisticated spirit and experiment with subscription boxes and cocktails.
The recent emphasis on buying local has prompted people who usually look to the continent to consider the UK when it comes to wine. With the recent rising temperatures due to climate change, wine can now be produced with fewer of the weather barriers that Brits are used to, so stock up on English wines and cash in.
High ABV beers have flooded the market in recent years, with top-quality options leading the way. Premium brewed beers such as Beavertown’s Double Chin Double Neck Oil (8.6%), Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break (11.5%) and Meantime’s London IPA (7.4%) come with craft credentials and high ABVs, with their drinkers relishing every sip rather than powering through pints as they would with session (lower ABV) ales.
The unique flavour of this Asian citrus fruit has long been championed by food writer Nigel Slater, who laments the absence of fresh yuzu from British shelves. It’s a sophisticated alternative to more mainstream citrus fruit, bringing a hybrid of lime, lemon and grapefruit flavours to drinks of all descriptions. Harness the power of sour.
Yuzu can be leveraged as a key ingredient in functional food and beverage formulations, according to GlobalData, given the strong consumer interest in nutrient-dense ‘superfruits’, as well as the growing popularity of Japanese cuisine.
The low/no movement is here to stay – and a vital stocking point for food and drink stores across the UK. Indeed, the trend of moderate alcohol consumption in the UK has increased, driving the expansion of the market for low and non-alcoholic drinks. In 2022, the low and non-alcoholic drinks market saw strong growth, with £255 million in volume sales according to Mintel.
Beer dominates volume sales of low and no-alcohol drinks in retail, with an estimated 68% share in 2022, but alcohol-free wines and spirits are on the rise too, so make sure all bases are covered with your low/no offering.
Discover more drinks trends and find key products to stock in Drinks Buyer 2023.