Another new year beckons. And while 2021 seemed to offer so glimmers of light in the ongoing global battle against Covid-19, the recent rise of the Omicron variant means that many markets across the world are heading back into strict lockdowns. So how has this – and will this – influence what we’re choosing to drink? We take a look at some of the key drinks trends for the year ahead.
Megatrends such as sustainability, will continue to be dominant in 2022 and beyond, which is why you won’t see them specifically called out on our list. From biodegradable packaging, to sustainable production, carbon neutrality, investment in circular production, and charitable giving-back (through donations to eco-charities, investment in local communities, and the development of new crops and farming practices), concerted efforts to do-better will continue to shape how all brands – large and small – do business. And that’s a task that will never be finished.
RTDs too, are a trend already in motion. With a switch to home and outdoor socialising during the pandemic, we’ve seen the format come to the fore. The opening of new can-only bars such as London’s Bo Kiri, are a sign of their new place as a way for consumers to explore and experiment at an affordable price point, in both the on and off-trade. We’ll explore their rise in future blog posts. And the rise of tequila seems unstoppable. We love tequila, but given as its been in growth, and tipped as a trend, for years, we’re giving it a pass in our list.
Instead we’re focusing our predictions for 2022 on new and emerging patterns of consumer behaviour, that often encompass not just one, but many of the megatrends mentioned, as we explore how changing consumer motivations is impacting innovation across categories. Enjoy.
1. Take us back
Nostalgia. Hedonism. Luxurious indulgence. Consumers craving – nay, at this point in need of the good times – will be looking to let their hair down where they can. Comforting, nostalgic flavours, alongside retro serves will be key to truly feeling like consumers are treating themselves. Just look at the revival of serves such as Eggnog, and the Snowball this festive season.
According to James Bailey, executive director of UK retailer Waitrose in its annual Food & Drink Report, “We’re unwinding with bursts of hospitality and blasts of ‘pop-up hedonism’. There is a pent-up need to reconnect with loved ones.” It reports that sales of nostalgic desserts such as Angel Delight, sticky toffee pudding, and school-dinner style traybake sponges, are making a comeback, as consumers seek products that remind them of a simpler time. Sales of champagne are up 40% year-on-year, while magnum sales are up 88%.
Spirits-wise, expect port, sherry, single-malts, vermouth, and cream liqueurs sales to spike, while some will be given a modern facelift in the form of new RTD serves. Smokehead for example, has just launched the world’s first single-malt RTD. And Waitrose reports that cream liqueur sales have in fact been strong all year, proving they are no-longer just for Christmas. And finally, flavour-wise, the IWSR points to peanut butter, lemonade and chocolate as having become increasingly popular during the pandemic, as people feel the need to seek enjoyment where they can. Recent ‘indulgent’ launches include the limited-edition Baileys Birthday Cake flavour. With future lockdowns already in place, or looking imminent, expect the desire to tap into the ‘good old times’ through nostalgic tipples, to continue.
2. Sure it tastes nice. But what does it do?
In 2022, functionality is going to be king, as consumers look for products that offer them health or wellness benefits, as well as flavour. They’ve been tipped as a key trend before, but adjuncts such as nootropics, adaptogens, antioxidants, probiots, and – and these are two to keep a particular eye on – electrolytes and prebiotics – will appear in ever more new launches as ever more health-focused consumers seek the convenience of getting the functional benefits they need from products that are enjoyable, look great (never underestimate the worth of an Insta-friendly pastel-hued can), and fit in with their routines, either new or established.
On the alcoholic side, new US brand Funny Water (3.75% ABV) is a naturally flavoured still water brand – notably, not a hard seltzer – and contains antioxidants and electrolytes.
On the low, no and soft drinks side, Mayawell is an agave-based prebiotic soda range, designed to aid gut health, through supporting the digestive system, and helping the body absorb calcium. Beer giant Molson Coors has put its money into Huzzah! a non-alc probiotic seltzer.
Though some non-alcoholic spirits brands such as Three Spirit, Edi, and Sentia already promise functional benefits – namely replicating the sensory experience of sipping alcohol – expect future non-alc spirits innovations to offer ever more health, and wellness functionality.
3. Mixed strength portfolios
Time was that RTD multipacks offered a variety of flavours. In 2022, they will instead offer a range of strengths. Brands looking to be all things, to all consumers, more of the time, will give imbibers the flexibility to move around their portfolios by offering no-low, mid-strength, and full-strength versions of their products. According to the IWSR, 58% of consumers drink no-low and full-strength alcohol on the same occasion.
Embattled brewer BrewDog last year partnered with UK supermarket chain, Waitrose, to launch the Highs & Lows multipack, which contained six alcoholic beers and four non-alcoholic options, namely Punk IPA, Hazy Jane – Beer. Punk AF, Hazy AF. And now, US brand Primer is set to launch a mixed- strength multipack of its Electrolyte Charged Hard Seltzer, in the Midwest in February 2022. The nine-pack will contain 0%, 5%, and 8% ABV versions of the same product. When it comes to beers, RTDs, and as technology improves, wines, expect more brands to jump on the mixed-strength trend, namely through multipacks.
On the spirits side, a number of brands of course are already opting to ride the low-no wave by offering zero-strength versions of their products, Diageo’s Gordons and Tanqueray being the most high-profile examples. As consumers look to moderate, rather than abstain, expect a number of spirits brands to start offering some mid-strength options too.
4. Just concentrate
Speaking of mid-strength, one of the most interesting emerging trends over the past year ticks the boxes for two mega-trends; eco and moderation. Alcohol concentrates – which claim to offer the same flavour as full-strength products, but at a fraction of the strength – are being pitted as both a way to moderate calorie intake, as well as being more eco-friendly by offering a greater number of serves in the same bottle. With both of these trends growing, we expect the number of alcohol concentrates coming to market to increase exponentially in 2022 too.
Traditional, family-owned UK gin maker Hayman’s have really led the charge here in late 2019, with their pioneering Small Gin. Billed as a low-alc alternative, without any compromise on taste, Small Gin (43% ABV) is designed to be used in 5ml serves, which offer 0.2 units of alcohol, and 15 calories per serve. A 200ml bottle is said to make 40 gin and tonic serves. Cotswolds Dry Gin Essence (46% ABV) is again designed to be served in 5ml measures, to clock in at 0.23 units of alcohol per serve.
On the fringes of this trend are a few interesting new launches. Quarter G/N claims to belong to a new sub-category of ‘light spirits’ or mid-strength options, and clocks in at 12% ABV, but is designed to be used in the same measures as full-strength gin.
And particularly interesting is London distiller Portobello Road’s recent foray into both low and high-strength gin, both of which claim to offer a concentrated flavour. Its Temperance Gin is offered at 4.2% ABV, with a 50ml serving in G&T coming in at 0.8% ABV. Conversely, brand new launch, the Special Reserve 101, has been launched to push the boundaries of what a gin can be, while remaining in the London Dry Gin regulations. Offered at 50.5% ABV, it is made with 50% more juniper, botanicals are steeped for twice as long, and uses 75% of the heart of the distillation, “discarding much more of the distillation than we ordinarily would”, according to co-founder and master distiller, Jake F Burger. Finally it is cut with what Portobello claims is the world’s most mineral rich mineral water, Vichy Catalan, which contains 3000 parts per million dissolved solids.
5. Stop wining
One area that has been oddly overlooked in the rush to provide imbibers with low or no alternatives to pretty much every drink you can think of, is wine. For innovation to have skipped a whole category seems confusing. Yes, there are non-alc wines out there, but they have not enjoyed the same marketing spend or attention are their beer and spirit counterparts. And largely this is because many of them simply aren’t very good.
Sparkling wine is emerging as an exception, with a number of image-conscious independent brands making a play for the prize of tapping into the continuing thirst for fizz, as well as the growing awareness of alcohol alternatives.
However, we’re now seeing the emergence of challengers to non-alc wines emerge. Adjacent to the wine category, rather than replicating the taste of wine, these new products are making a play instead for the moments when wine is enjoyed.
Hard kombuchas for example are a particular area of focus, with brands such as J’aime, Real Kombucha and marketing themselves as a healthy wine alternative. Real and Danish NoLo wine alternative Muri (which uses layered fermentation techniques to create the character and full flavour of wine) are even sold in champagne-style bottles. And Hun is a non-alc, vegan, alcohol-free sparkling wine, made from single origin South African Chenin Blanc grapes, available as an RTD. The prize is large, and surely being eyed by some of the largest wine producers.