26 November 2018
Christmas is around the corner, signalling the start of the festive ‘silly season’ and the inevitable turn-of-the-year food & drink trends.
As we head into 2019, what is particularly interesting is the number of external factors playing a part in the booze world – with everything from politics, to the environment and health contributing to what’s filling our drinks shelves.
Kicking off with sustainability – one of the hottest buzzwords of the moment, and a trend that every booze brand is finding ways to shout about. This year’s World Class event in Berlin saw Ketel One create a bar made of fully recyclable materials and shake up cocktails using misshapen fruit that would otherwise be thrown out – championing zero-waste on one of the highest-profile industry stages available. What’s more, the Glenmorangie company – winners of multiple medals for Ardbeg and the legendary Glenmorangie at the recent International Wine & Spirit Competition’s Annual Awards Banquet – has even begun an initiative to recycle its old casks to make beautiful surfboards and even sunglasses.
And it’s not just large-scale brands that are going green. Take Pococello, a premium limoncello brand that recently brokered a partnership with Square Root Soda to donate the leftover lemons from the production process (which only requires the peel) to make a zero-waste lemonade. Canned wine is also starting to make its way onto UK supermarket shelves, offering a more sustainable way to enjoy one glass on the move, with the can format eliminating the need to buy a stack of 50 plastic cups to pour out a mere 187ml single-serve bottle.
Pour yourself a stiff one as move on to another topic du jour, Brexit. The political cabinet is having more impact on the drinks cabinet than ever before, with borders and budgets causing big shifts in the worlds of beer, wine and spirits. Rising import costs are going to cause European wine to see a hefty price increase, and even British producers are suffering at the hands of the government, with the recent Budget having unveiled a hefty hike in homegrown wine tax. The International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) has predicted that this will result in New World producers – Australia, NZ, South Africa, Argentina, Chile etc. – exploiting this to the full, meaning that in the coming years our supermarket wine offerings could look very different.
With political turmoil and climate change on the horizon, it’s no surprise we’re preparing ourselves as best we can and focusing on our health. Recent studies have showed that a third of under-25s are teetotal – something that would be troubling for the booze world, were it not fully prepared for this trend. Take Adnams, the Southwold-based brewer that has recently launched an alcohol-free version of its popular Ghost Ship IPA. Made using advanced reverse osmosis techniques – one of only two breweries in the whole of Europe with this technology – the brewery has succeeded in producing a beer that tastes almost identical to the original version, but with just 0.5% ABV – proving that you can have your pint and drinksink it.
The wine industry is also employing advanced techniques to create low- to no-alcohol varieties. At the beginning of the year Australian wine brand McGuigan Wines launched a low-alcohol range, Delight, into Marks & Spencer. The duo of ‘dealcoholised’ Moscatos are crafted using state-of-the-art technology to preserve the first-class quality of the wines and fill a gap in the UK market for consumers seeking premium versions of this increasingly popular style.
Finally, when it comes to spirits classic serves are also being replaced with lower-alcohol alternatives, with aforementioned Pococello championing its signature serve – the ‘Poco-tonic’ – as a lighter option than the popular G&T (Pococello’s ABV comes in at a more modest 29% compared with the average gin). And for those looking to embrace a bone-dry January, sobriety is fortunately becoming ever-more sophisticated, as we see an influx of alcohol-free botanical spirits hot on the heels of pioneering brand Seedlip.
For those in the industry – whether buyer, bartender or marketer – it’s more important than ever to have an all-encompassing view of the current state of play. Social media allows for trends to develop at a record-breaking pace and our uncertain political times are set to play into other sectors; all resulting in an inevitable knock-on effect on drinks. However, this also provides an opportunity for the industry to come together, as brands provide inspiration for one another and collaborate to capitalise on (or overcome) the external factors at play.
We’ll raise a (low-alcohol, zero-waste, New World) tipple to that.