“We’re seeing a marked change in attitudes towards drinks,” observes Pierpaolo Petrassi MW, Partner & head of beers, wines, spirits and soft drinks at Waitrose. “Many people have a broader repertoire than ever before, and think carefully about what they’re drinking, looking for an experience and a sense of the occasion, company or season.”
Waitrose eyes up ten top UK drinks trends in its 2019 Food and Drink Report.
1. All about taste (and not alcohol)
Waitrose identifies a subtle shift in how people view their evening drink, with the focus more on flavour than alcohol content. Drinkers are thinking more about whether they want to sip on something bitter, sweet, long or cold, rather than whether it’s alcohol based.
Meanwhile, both non-alcoholic drinks and lower-alcohol alternatives to classic concoctions are growing.
“This trend is partly due to prioritising health, but also thanks to non-alcoholic mixers such as Fever-Tree, Coca-Cola and Double Dutch innovating heavily and moving upmarket,” says the report.
“Alongside the growing importance of flavour, we’re seeing a rise in the popularity of lower alcohol drinks. A simple vermouth and tonic, for example, or a plain Campari and soda have a lower ABV than a classic G&T.”
2. BYO bottles
The concept of buying beer and wine in a refillable container comes from America, where ‘growlers’ are popular. But trials in Waitrose stores suggest that bringing your own bottle could soon become the norm in the UK.
This year, the supermarket took more than 200 products out of packaging in an Oxford store, offering them instead as refillable options to see if consumers would be prepared to shop differently.
Wine and beer was included in the trial, as were coffee refills (consumers could grind their coffee in store as part of the purchase).
“Sustainability, personalisation and value for money are the main reasons for this rise in refillables,” says Waitrose.
“The Unpacked pilot at the Waitrose & Partners Oxford Botley Road store had phenomenal results. Four types of wine and four draught beers (from Toast, which brews using unwanted bread – fitting perfectly with the green aspect of this trend) were available. Ten weeks’ worth of beer sold out in just four days and the trial is already being extended to three more stores.”
Britain’s love affair with pink gin and rosé wine seems to be expanding: drink aisles are now an explosion of pink.
“From rosé vermouth and Champagne to Cocchi Rosa, an Italian aromatised wine, there are blushes all round,” says Waitrose.
4. Orange wine
Orange wine is created by leaving skin and seeds on grapes during fermentation, leading to an unusual ‘orange’ colour.
“A bumper harvest in 2018 has led to a boost in sales of English and Welsh wine this year,” says the report. “For something different, look out for Litmus Orange, the first English orange wine to be sold in a supermarket.”
5. Grape adventures
With wine drinkers now familiar with the most common grape varieties, they’re becoming confident enough to explore more unusual ones.
Eastern European wine, in particular, is gaining popularity: sales of the dry Slovenian Furmint – a grape characterised by electric acidity – are up 159%.
“Waitrose & Partners has tapped into the trend for ‘controlled discovery’ with the launch of nine lesser-known wines, including grape varieties that three-quarters of people hadn’t heard of. But more drinkers will now be sampling the likes of Arinto from Portugal or Cannonau from Sardinia.”
6. Drinks tourism
The number of drinks enthusiasts taking guided tours behind the scenes at the UK’s vineyards, breweries and distilleries has rocketed in recent years. Visits to Scotch whisky distilleries have risen by 56% since 2010, while one London gin distillery has seen visits rise by 2,000% since 2015.
7. DIY flavoured spirits
Giving consumers the chance to flavour their own spirits taps into trends for personalisation and the chance to engage with the drinks they’re consuming.
“Instead of buying pre-flavoured gins or vodkas, we’re increasingly taking a homespun approach and adding our own choice of fruits, herbs or botanicals to plain spirits," notes Waitrose.
"It’s theatrical, creative and personalised. And it makes a great gift.”
Champagne’s pedestal has been challenged by Prosecco and Cava: but these are not the only sparkling wines popular with consumers.
“Sales of sparkling keep rising with shoppers keen to try new fizzes in addition to Prosecco. Cava is making a resurgence, but we’re also looking to effervescent wines from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa,” says Waitrose.
9. Beautiful bottles
The importance of packaging as a premium cue in the spirits sector continues to grow.
“With elegant shapes and intricate designs, spirit bottles are now definitely things of beauty,” says Waitrose. “So much so that we’re repurposing rather than recycling: using them as table centrepieces, draping fairy lights around them at home, or transforming them into diffuser-stick holders.”
10. Cans are cool
Alcohol packaged in cans used to be frowned upon. But the craft beer boom has bought them back into the limelight, and sales of canned lager now outstrip bottled.
“Ready-to-drink cocktails in a tin are also flying off the shelves and Waitrose & Partners is selling English wine in a can, too. Aluminium is proving popular as it’s easily recyclable and cans already contain a high proportion of recycled content, making them a green choice.”
Waitrose’s full Food and Drink Report 2019 can be found here.
Pictures: getty/maximfesenko; getty/rrecrutt; getty/kristenprahhl.