Looking into the future, what are the drinking trends in 2019 likely to be? The Drinks Industry Show at Sydney’s Darling Harbour in mid-June sheds some light. By Ben Canaider
Following on the success of the 2017 event, The Drinks Industry Show on 18-19 June will once again offer a range of tastings and workshops demonstrating and displaying some of the newest and more innovative drinks industry products doing the rounds.
It is an opportunity for anyone with a liquor licence to see—in one place—what’s emerging, what trends are developing, and which of them may bolt-on to your business to the greatest advantage.
To that end, here’s a short list of those trends to help you navigate your way through the show.
Premium, premium, premium
Premiumisation has been the jargon term de jour in liquor landscapes all over the world for the past two decades. And as a trend, it’s not showing any signs of slowing down.
However, there’s a catch: you’ve got posher drinks to sell at better prices but it’s built a customer base that now expects the best. Boutique, local and bespoke drinks bring a unique specificity to a customer’s drinking experience. It makes them feel special. It also makes them expectant: high standards of service and bar staff knowledge are part of the deal.
Spirits have followed Australian beer’s lead in recent times, with a strong drive towards small-batch, locally produced distillations, invariably made (at least in regard to gin) with autochthonous Australian ingredients in the mix—such things as quandong, for instance. Co-founder of the Kangaroo Island-based Mad Men Original Gin, Tony Parkinson, sees gin growth set to continue.
“Until the early 1990s, small-scale distilling was illegal in Australia. It is astonishing how fast the market has grown, and continues to grow,” he says. “Consumption of gin in this country has climbed by more than 40 per cent since 2010, with more than 130 small-batch distillers now in operation.
“This craft gin is enjoying a surge in popularity, its artisanship the antithesis of the mass market staples. Access to locally grown ingredients, in particular indigenous botanicals such as wattle seed, quandong, pepper berries, lemon and bush tomato, even edible green ants, see these local gins being sought out; driven by creative packaging, incessant social media, innovative distillery ‘cellar door’ facilities and a burgeoning spirits bar culture,” says Parkinson.
Of all alcoholic beverages, wine—and especially sparkling wine—is moving inextricably towards premiumisation. Champagne is the ultimate exemplar of this, as statistics from the Comité Champagne this year demonstrate. To quote Australian-based champagne guru, Tyson Stelzer: “It’s official—Australia set a string of new records for champagne imports in 2017, setting all-time highs in volume, value, number of houses, number of growers and number of cooperatives imported.”
Niche sparkling sales are also on the rapid rise, particularly Australian prosecco. University of Melbourne lecturer in wine and viticulture, Chris Barnes, sees this strongly in the 20- to 25-year-old demographic.
Premiumisation has been the jargon de jour in liquor landscapes all over the world for the past two decades.
“The love affair with prosecco continues to grow with a younger market, as does sparkling by the glass in general,” he says. “It’s coupled with a surprising, but pleasing, desire to drink premium.
“However, the most asked questions I get from students are about the so-called ‘natural’ and low-intervention wines. However, once tasted, these wines are polarising, thus risky for producers and sellers unless they are really committed to that small, but vocal, market segment.”
The handmade, the local, the crafted, the one-off brews—beer is now all about craft beer and small brewing volumes. Having moved—within a generation—from a flat beer landscape of parochial lagers to a new generation of ales, the next step is towards seasonal beers. Wheat beers in spring. Porters and stouts and brown ales in winter. Bright ales in autumn and quenchable lagers in the summer. If your beer list isn’t seasonal and local, you’re offending the beernoscenti.
Cocktails and blended drinks
Fancy a speer (a spirit beer)? How about a spider (a spirit cider)? The world of cocktails and the new sub-genre ‘experimental drinks’ is probably the most out-there trend emerging in the drinks business. The popularity of participatory cooking shows (like MasterChef) have pushed this along, with more and more bartenders coming from a professional kitchen background. As MasterChef’s Matt Preston commented: “With the rise of celebrity chefs and the increased interest in cuisine, the most enlightened mixologists will explore and experiment with flavours, textures, ingredients and techniques borrowed from their peers in the world of fine dining.
“From shock cuisine and hardcore fermentation to extreme locality and the growth of restless ‘palate syndrome’, there is so much the culinary and bartending worlds can learn from each other.” Such things as a foie gras and salted caramel-infused Manhattan are the result.
Health and wellbeing
There’s a theory that people might be drinking less because they are caring more about their health and general wellbeing. Low-calorie, low-carb, gluten-free and lactose-free drinks—particularly in packaged form—have enjoyed a huge success in the Australian market since 2000.
So, this is not an emerging trend but it is a trend that continues to evolve and find new nuances. Particularly on the following area…
Non-alcoholic: I once interviewed that icon of Australian winemaking and marketing, Wolf Blass. I asked him if—at the end of his career—he had any regrets. Surprisingly he said, yes. One. Non-alcohol wine. “Do you know how many people in the world there are who do not drink alcohol? Millions. I could sell them this non-alcohol wine!” Today, the need for non-alcohol drinks continues to grow in a quiet but nevertheless effective way. The stigma, even here in Australia, has gone.
Convenience: The word drives most of the drinks market. Convenience is linked directly to the digital age, of course, and according to Peter McAtamney of Wine Business Solutions, the most successful drinks businesses are the ones making “digital strategy the focus of their sales”.
“While for most people,” he continues, “buying premium wine is about personal selling and personal connection with the winery or the wine bar or the sommelier, convenience is an important factor.”