The changing consumer demands driving the drinks market

* 4 min read
The drinks market is ever evolving. Whether out in a bar, or at home with friends, consumers are always seeking a new or different drink, ranging from an alcoholic tipple to ‘adult’ soft drinks, and cold-brew coffee.

When it comes to alcohol, spirits is the fastest growing drinks category in the on-trade, and the yearly value is forecast to grow by nearly £800m, with further room for growth still.

Soft drinks is also a category that is thriving, with sales worth £1.5bn in Britain whether consumed by themselves as an alternative to alcohol or as a mixer to your favourite spirit. Will this still be the case with the introduction of the ‘sugar tax’ in April 2018?

We’ve seen the arrival of cold-brew coffee and challenging-looking fermented tea. What will be driving consumer behaviour next and how will brands and businesses adapt to this?

Changing consumer demands

The tonic explosion

In 2017 we saw the accelerating explosion of premium gins and vodkas such as Silent Pool and Black Cow, and this growing popularity of premium spirits has helped mixers become the fastest growing carbonated drinks sector in the UK. The once impervious Schweppes brand had its tonic water crown torn off by the relentless emergence of the Fever-Tree brand, whose mixers rose by 77%. However, Schweppes is no doubt benefitting from the cleverness of Fever-Tree and has re-launched its core tonic range, as well as launching a new, premium brand of tonics.

10 consumer drinks trends to watch out for in 2018

  1. Magnums
  2. Garnishes
  3. Bitter flavours
  4. Premium mixers
  5. Wine in a box
  6. Sicilian Wines
  7. Pimping fizz
  8. Spanish Vermouth
  9. Hybrid tipples
  10. Craft porters and stouts

Source: Waitrose annual food and drinks trend report 2017

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‘Adult’ soft drinks

There has also been huge demand for soft drinks, and with this came a change from punitive ‘adult soft drinks’ to more sophisticated and authentic non-alcoholic propositions. Consumers do not always want to drink; they may be on a health kick, tired or teetotal but still want to enjoy going out to bars and socialising, or making a satisfying drink at home. But you don’t want the sweet, sugary taste coating your teeth as a ‘traditional’ soft drink may.

The Seedlip brand responded to this and is the first of its kind – a sophisticated, craft-driven, premium distilled spirit that’s also non-alcoholic, and it’s truly disrupting the way people think about adult non-alcoholic beverages. The results? It’s been the best-selling ‘spirit’ at Selfridges for 12 months despite being non-alcoholic.

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‘Craft’ is a current trend, which is proving to be a rather broad term, open to many different interpretations (including real people, vintage, handcrafted, irreverence, simplicity, sustainability, purity of ingredients and authenticity). In the main, ‘craft brands’ tend to be more artisanal in approach, made in smaller runs and with elements of traditional and hand-made production and packaging. Think cottage industries, craft ales, hand-signed labels and single batch distillation.

Whilst some of these new ‘craft’ offerings are excellent, some have rather forgotten the old adage that ‘behind every great brand is a great product’. Whilst their designs are distinctive and irreverent, some of them leave a lot to be desired taste wise.

Some great iterations of ‘craft’ brands currently include Isle of Harris gin, Black Cow vodka and Cracker Drinks Co fruit juice drinks. Whether ‘infused with sugar kelp from the Outer Hebrides’, ‘made entirely from the milk of grass grazed cows’ or blending new and exciting combinations of fruit with water, each offers the market something distinctive and compelling, with unique products that deliver in spades.

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Cracker Drinks Co identified this trend last year and worked with Parker Williams (the creative arm of Sun Branding Solutions) to create ‘Crafted’, a range of uniquely crafted fruit juice blends. The team were tasked to encapulate the craft of blending, in the on-pack design.

The name ‘Crafted’ drove the overall look and feel to the design from the impactful ‘stamp like’ brand mark to the intricately detailed illustrations, created in a similar style to those used in crafted ales and ciders.

To read about the additional changing consumer demands and see what’s next in drinks, download our ebook.