Sponsored article: A whole year on since the UK was first plunged into lockdown and it's safe to say consumers couldn't be more ready to descend on their local pubs and restaurants for a bite to eat, a well-deserved drink and a long overdue catch up with loved ones.
Building a thriving thirst
Our nation's thirst for drinking is strong, with many people having set up at-home bars during lockdown to enjoy their favourite tipples. In fact, UK consumers have knocked back a whopping 498.5 million litres of alcohol since March 2020. So, unsurprisingly, as restrictions begin to ease and establishments reopen, over a third of adults plan on returning to restaurants as soon as they are able to do so!
With a huge number of operators all following the same reopening schedule, and vying for consumers to visit, competition is strong. Not only this, but consumers have become accustomed to supermarket drinks prices – and so may need extra persuasion to go out and spend more. This is where reminding consumers of what they loved the most about going out is key – whether that was a weekly pint at the local, a boozy brunch or a date-night dinner. Even shaking things up and boosting operators' service offering through new stylish outdoor dining or themed nights, such as craft beer events or Mexican fiestas, will help entice all those customers through the doors.
Tapping into talked about trends
Up your low- and no-alcohol
With a third of UK adults now removing alcohol from their diets completely, there's a continuing rise in demand for better low- and no-alcohol alternatives. And, with a simple cola or juice no longer enough to tantalise the tastebuds of those choosing to be teetotal, suppliers have had to develop interesting, exciting concepts to keep these consumers engaged.
Some of the best examples are produced as a full-strength drink with alcohol, which is then removed in the secondary process – like Clean Co: a range of full-flavoured, low-alcohol spirits including rum and gin, with no sugar or sweeteners at 10-15 calories per serve. Or, if you're more into the taste of a pint, there is the Smashed range, offering a collection of 0% lagers, ales and beers in cans.
With health being even more in the spotlight over the past 12 months, many consumers are now seeking healthier drink choices to slot into their lifestyle. Partly reflected in the no- and low-alcohol category, this 2021 ‘wellness my way' trend can also be seen in new product variations emerging, which combine both alcohol and a low-calorie option.
One contender that has taken the US by storm is hard seltzers. Worth a staggering $4.5b in 2019 and now creeping its way into the UK, these drinks are demonstrating some strong growth over here during the past year in the off-trade. These soda waters, infused with flavourings and with a neutral spirit as the base, such as vodka or gin, provide refreshing alternatives to sweeter, sugary options on the market. Kopparberg hard seltzers, at 5% ABV and 93 calories, are available in passion fruit and mixed berries flavours.
Another key focus is the importance of supporting local businesses – from favouring a local pub around the corner to picking British producers over imported goods. With the likes of Brexit, Covid-19 and a desire to reduce air miles and be reassured on product traceability, consumers are increasingly thinking and supporting ‘local'. An area we see growing in popularity over the coming years because of this is the English wine market. Currently accounting for just 1% of the domestic market, England has 3,500 hectares of vines – four times the amount in the year 2000 and this is only looking to increase. With growers progressively looking to capitalise on England's diverse range of grape-friendly soils, it's fair to say that we will see more English wines emerging in the future.
Do yourself a flavour
Another key trend for 2021 is ‘little luxuries' – where consumers are seeking ways to upgrade their experiences, whether that's through a premium twist on a classic drink, an eye-catching presentation or enjoying a different flavour drinks combination.
With one in five gins sold in the on-trade being flavoured, this category shows no signs of abating. We have more than 40 gins within our range, with many becoming more adventurous. Some now replicate classic cocktail flavours such as the Bombay Bramble, a play on the original 1984 Bramble cocktail, or classic dessert flavours such as gooseberry (Slingsby), quince (Whitley Neill) and lemon drizzle (Sipsmith). We‘ve also launched our Unity Club Collection – a range of more than 300 premium wines and spirits, from some of the finest winemakers and suppliers. There's Planeta, which use five separate wineries across Sicily, including Frappato, one of the rarest and hardest grapes to produce, or the Boschkloof collection, a South African Bordeaux blend-style wine, with Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc!
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