‘There’s a more bullish view in 2020’: Report reveals huge uplift in the drinks industry’s use of digital

By Jon Reay, Founder of Rewrite Digital

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: GettyImages/Kuzmik_A
Pic: GettyImages/Kuzmik_A

Related tags digital ecommerce Direct to consumer

COVID-19 has contributed to a rapid acceleration in the beverage industry’s use of digital technology over the past 12 months, with new technologies forecast to play an increasingly important role in the industry’s future survival and growth, a new report reveals.

According to the Digital in Drinks 2020, ​an annual report by Rewrite Digital, widespread adoption of ecommerce and D2C (direct-to-consumer) business models, digital experiences, process automation, personalisation, machine learning, blockchain and other emerging technologies by drinks brands was observed this year.

The strategic consultancy undertook the research between March and May 2020, surveying drinks industry professionals, including producers, off- and on-trade, and suppliers.

Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed said that their digital maturity has gone up slightly or significantly in the last 12 months. Fifteen percent now consider their drinks business as a digital leader.

Jon Reay, Founder & CEO of Rewrite Digital, remarked: “There’s a more bullish view in 2020. In 2019, industry leaders talked about the importance of digital, yet most admitted to being behind the curve. This year, in some cases out of necessity, they’ve acted.”

Growth has been observed by businesses across the digital maturity spectrum but the gap is widening between those that truly embrace digital and those just getting started with it.

Six ‘standout’ digital innovations feature in the report. Digital has enabled pioneering new customer experiences but also new products, business models and operational enhancements. COVID-19 in particular has driven a significant rise in the role of digital - creating a ‘virtual on-trade’, accelerating D2C ecommerce and heralding a new era of in-the-home drinking.

“Many of the changes experienced during lockdown are expected to endure​,” Reay continued.

Lack of a clear strategy topped the list of challenges preventing beverage companies from embracing digital, while insufficient digital skills within organisations was cited as a further barrier.

“Our research clearly shows that while many beverage companies see the potential offered by digital technology and are willing to invest in it, they are unsure about how to get started. Ensuring staff have the necessary skillset needs to be a top priority,” ​noted the CEO. 

The report identifies three key drivers of growth in the next year:

  1. Digitised on-trade – with greater use of technology and automation in venues as they start to reopen and ongoing digital engagement between visits
  2. In-the-home premiumisation – with more nights in being a permanent fixture yet growing demand for better experiences more akin to the on-trade
  3. Liquid personalisation - creating drinks at scale that reflect individual tastes, preferences and data.

While adoption of digital had already been accelerating, COVID-19 has put digital front and centre of most drinks businesses. Concluding, Reay said: “As we continue to emerge from the COVID pandemic, and into 2021, digital will continue to play a pivotal and increasing role in the industry’s future survival and growth.”


Rewrite Digital is hosting a virtual launch on 25 June​ with an industry panel of digital leaders. Click here​ for further information and to access the full report.


About the author: ​​Prior to launching Rewrite Digital, Jon worked in several digital agencies around the world for seventeen years. He has led pioneering digital and customer engagement strategies for organisations that include William Grant & Sons, Lloyd’s of London, Manchester City FC, Team GB, IKEA, UK Cabinet Office and Tourism New Zealand. Educated in Computer Science at Bristol University, Jon has experience working with a range of digital technologies to which he brings significant value to IT, marketing and business strategies for clients. Jon recently spoke on the growing role of digital in the beverage industry on beverage industry-focused podcast DrinkX​.

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