How to refresh your summer drinks offering

04 June 2021, 11:15 AM
  • With temperatures and shoppers’ excitement for socialising simultaneously rising, here’s what to stock to cater for the new demand
How to refresh your summer drinks offering

As the temperature rises, the thirst for a delicious beverage increases too – but what do consumers want in summer 2021? After a year of on and off lockdown, it’s only natural that shoppers are looking forward to getting out and about just that little bit more, socialising with friends and celebrating the apparent route out of the Covid crisis.

According to Dawn Davies, head buyer at The Whisky Exchange, the past year has given shoppers and retailers alike some time to refresh their view on the drinks they buy and sell.

“Lockdown has given the customer time to explore and learn more about the drinks world and this is fantastic. They are no longer just going for the big brands but are wanting to try different products and producers.”

The way customers are using products has evolved, too. “They are learning how to use products in a variety of cocktails and are not afraid to test out new drinks,” explains Dawn, “and retailers can capitalise on this through giving consumers alternatives not just the classics, by looking at classic cocktails and making sure they have the ingredients needed to stock them – don’t necessarily use the old favourites for these ingredients, give them a twist – and ensuring that staff are well briefed in how to suggest simple cocktails or simple serves to use up the bottles.”

Now that consumers have had time to educate themselves and experiment with the myriad of options out there, the opportunity is ripe for fine food and drink retailers to capitalise on this thirst for quality and story. “Customers want more knowledge, they want to understand where their products come from and what is in them,” she continues. “They want to make sure they are ‘drinking smart’; by this I mean that the products are produced and packaged sustainably and the companies are ethically and socially responsible.”

The ethical pound

More drinks producers than ever are launching with ethical, social and environmental responsibility at their heart – a far cry from a number of larger brands which see sustainability credentials as simply a box-ticking exercise. Although Avallen is not a new product within the British market, the focus on sustainability which runs through the business is certainly a taste of things to come. Plus, the team has gone one step further and published its own sustainability-focused report – the Bee More Report 2021 – which details its mission, successes and future plans for all to see.

Co-founder Stephanie Jordan told Speciality Food that the natural world has always been a key focus for the business. “Here at Avallen, we have the environment in mind at every stage of development, from the choice of the apples in Normandy as our raw material, through to our lightweight bottle with apple pulp labels and our commitment to preserving wild bee populations.”

As well as being environmentally conscious and making business decisions in line with that, the business supports charities and endeavours all round to make the world a better place for us all. “Forget carbon neutral,” she says, “Avallen is climate positive in every way; every bottle actively removes 3kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and we use a fraction of water in the production compared to other spirits (only 1.2L per bottle compared to 13L used on average when producing a bottle of bourbon).

“Plus, we donate to charitable partners with every bottle that’s sold. All citizens, whether you’re a ‘consumer’ or ‘producer,’ should strive to make our home a better place. And what better way to start than with enjoying a delicious tipple that doesn’t give the planet a hangover? The pandemic has certainly shifted people’s choices with more and more looking to purchase products that not only align with their beliefs but give them versatility in consumption. Culture is changing fast and there is a rapidly growing group of eco-conscious citizens of today who want brands to respond accordingly, and those that embrace this change are most likely to succeed in the post-pandemic world.”

One of summer’s most familiar sights is that of a picnic topped up with canned beverages, whether they be soft drinks, spirit-based tipples or wine. We’re all familiar with their convenience factor, but what’s now being better recognised is the environmental benefits they bring.

Darius Darwell, co-founder of Sipful, thoroughly researched this topic before landing on cans as his drinks’ format of choice. “The list of eco credentials for choosing cans is extensive but the highlights include: aluminum is infinitely and widely recyclable; glass is not!,” he begins.

“A 75cl glass bottle weighs roughly 600g, the equivalent volume in cans (three cans) weighs around 30g. To package 1000l of wine in a can rather than a bottle, you would save 796kg of packaging material or associated CO2 used for transport. Plus, recycling a can uses 90% less energy than recycling a glass bottle. When 1000kg of glass is recycled it will save 42kWh/ 4.5avrg UK homes per day. When 1000kg of aluminum is recycled it will save 14,000kWh/ 1,513 average UK homes per day.”

Marks & Spencer may be famed for it’s on-the-go canned cocktails, but there’s a world of options out there for discerning retailers; check out Nice Drinks and Niche Cocktails, and don’t forget the craft beer opportunity.

Bring the outside in-store

As summer beckons consumers are primed to spend more time outside, and – perhaps thanks to the necessity to stay close to home in recent times – they have an appreciation of the joy brought by the outside world more than ever.

Foraging saw a rise during lockdown, and as a result of the upcoming warmer weather and this newfound appreciation, is well worth investing shelf space in. Hugo Morrissey, founder and director of Nuisance, started his business in order to create intriguing drinks which celebrate the countless flavours and ingredients found across the British countryside and sees a growing opportunity for all.

“According to Blue Marlin’s 2020 Beverage Trends Report, 66% of consumers are now after food and drink with a natural claim – what could be more natural than foraging for your own ingredients?” he begins.

“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.” The business started in 2020 and saw the team roaming the 6,500 acre Hopetoun House Estate in the Scottish Lowlands, foraging nettles for its drinks inspired by Hugo’s mother’s nettle cordial recipe.

“The days of countless coffees and sitting behind spreadsheets were well and truly over,” he says, “instead, fresh air provided a boost of serotonin (a hormone enabling one to feel calmer, less stressed and generally happier) whilst weeks were spent totally at one with nature.”

Think beyond flavour

It comes as little surprise that shoppers tend to move away from heavier, richer beverages in the warmer months, but there’s more to stocking summer drinks than stocking old favourites that stay on your shelf year-round.

“Light and fresh flavours are always king around summer, with citrus-led flavours and summer fruits being the key note,” says Dawn, and there are always plenty of new options to keep tastebuds excited and satisfied.

For example, Round Corner Brewing has experimented with the lively citrus and tropical punch brought by New World hops. “In short, they’re beautifully complementing the season with all that new world life and optimism – now needed more than ever,” explains Combie Cryan, co-founder of Round Corner Brewing.

The business has experimented with Kiwi hops to create a Nelson Sauvin hopped Pilsner, Mainland, with a fruitiness reminiscent of gooseberries; and 10 Hours In LA, a single-hopped West Coast IPA which boasts a tropical punch. Both perfectly tick the hot weather box. While flavour is the key driver when it comes to summer-specific drinks, it’s important to stand out from the crowd by offering options with story and heart.

Plus, ignore the gin trend at your peril. “Gin is still a must-stock after all these years – it has almost become something of a staple!” says Andy Seach, sales manager at Otterbeck Distillery. “Consumers are more educated than ever, much more aware of what constitutes a genuine craft gin and constantly seeking out new and exciting brands, which is why small-batch distilling is still so on-trend.”

Key to the success of gin sales at fine food indies are seasonality and story, he says. “Combined with our stunning surroundings, we are encouraged to think seasonally about our range and how we bring seasonal flavours into how we serve our gins.” Indy Anand, director of Skylark Spirits, agrees that a business’s footprint beyond the flavours of the products it sells plays a part. “Consumers are beginning to appreciate more than just flavour profiles,” he says.

“The brands’ history, legacy and social impact are starting to become more important as drinkers realise they need a way to understand what is in their glass and how to understand value in what they purchase.”

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