Bacardi’s top five cocktail trends

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Bacardi Cocktails spirits

From smoky flavors to spicy margaritas, Bacardi highlights the trends it sees influencing the cocktail and wider spirits scene in 2021.

The spirits giant, in association with The Future Laboratory, has drawn its top trends from surveys with consumers, brand ambassadors and bars; alongside Nielsen CGA data and independent research.  

1) At home celebrations​ 

It’s not a surprise that the global pandemic has had a ‘profound impact’ on the drinks industry: coming down hard on the on-trade but creating a thriving market for at-home creations. It’s not a new trend as such, though: Bacardi says that the pandemic has ‘expedited the at-home and e-commerce convenience culture we had already begun to enjoy’.

“From RTDs, which have exploded with a 131% rise in the US off trade sector (Nielsen CGA), to at-home kits and to-go cocktails beloved by nearly 40% of consumers (NCGA Survey), people are enamored by the convenience culture brought on by the rise of e-commerce and the ability to get pretty much anything delivered to their doorstep.

"Online spirits sales grew exponentially last year and e-commerce has cemented its position as an important channel for spirits with players such as Drizly experiencing a 350% growth according to IWSR and a projected value of $45.5B across the top 10 markets globally by 2024.”

2) Outside the cocktail comfort zone

Whether at home or when normal social occasions out of home resume, 2021 will be a year where consumers demand a real sense of differentiation and experience. This could be sensorial experiences that range from striking chili through to super-sweet, sour, bitter and smoked flavor profiles: or rediscovery of distinctive cocktails and creations.

A sentiment of nostalgic comfort and escapism is driving the desire for extreme flavors and twists on classic cocktails. People are now willing to play outside their cocktail comfort zone and are exploring new, more intense flavors - adding spicy, smoky, super sweet, and bitter sensations to their drinks.

"The popularity of bitter flavors, in particular, coincides with how consumers are embracing the Italian aperitivo culture across the globe. Consumers are also seeking classic cocktails for a sense of familiarity, but with the monotony of lockdown life, there's been a renewed desire to experiment with fun twists on these time-honored staples. We're seeing a resurgence in spicy margaritas and the continued popularity of bitter negronis and gin & tonics with a twist. In North America, additionally, 46% of consumers are interested in drinks that incorporate tried and true ingredients like coffee and tea (Bacardi Global Brand Ambassador Survey).”

Top 5 spirits to watch

  • Gin
  • Mezcal
  • Tequila
  • Vermouth
  • Bitter liqueurs / amaro liqueurs

3) Spotlight on Experimentation and Premiumization 

Post-pandemic, consumers will be armed with a newfound knowledge of spirits and cocktails, having experimented with cocktail-making at home. This in turn will fuel a reinvention of the bar and a new appreciation of bartenders' skills.

“According to the Bacardi Holiday Survey 2020, 20% of customers are now keen to explore drinks that weren't on their radar pre-lockdown, including premium versions of their favorite spirits or others they haven't sampled before. In response, we'll see more elevated to-go options and premium batched cocktails come to the fore.

"Premium spirits are also forecasted to increase their global volume market share to 13% by 2024, according to IWSR. The best premiumization opportunities in North America lie in tequila (60%), dark rum (32%), and mezcal (29%), based on insights gleaned from the Bacardi Global Brand Ambassador Survey 2020.”

4) Sustainability savvy

Sustainability is important to consumers: but what does this mean when it comes to spirits and cocktails? The pandemic has highlighted the reliance on global supply chains – and hyperlocal drinks with reduced food miles will become more important in the future. New packaging innovations, meanwhile, include Bacardi’s biodegradable bottle, which will be rolled out by 2023 to replace 80 million plastic bottles a year.

Emphasis on sustainability and transparency remain at the forefront of consumers' minds, with nearly 70% of consumers in the US and Canada agreeing that it's important for a brand to be sustainable or eco-friendly (IBM, National Retail Association Federation). We also see an emphasis on sustainability take shape in bars and restaurants, with 58% of the brand ambassadors at Bacardi in North America noticing an increase in bartender interest in zero-waste ingredients.”

5) Low to no

Sober-curious consumers are emerging as a strong cohort, says Bacardi: comparing them to flexitarians who may not abstain from alcohol entirely but welcome options that allow them to reduce their consumption.

Given that they still contain a certain amount of alcohol, low ABV products are the most engaging for bartenders worldwide, says Bacardi.

The no and low-alcohol market continues to grow at a fast pace as people seek mindful options. Bars and restaurants are starting to take note of this shift with many beginning to adopt hybrid menus that offer all drinks in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. People are also increasing use of immune boosting ingredients such as echinacea and elderberry. The Bacardi Global Brand Ambassador Survey 2020 reveals that functional ingredients with energy and superfood-related ingredients rank particularly strong amongst bartenders.”

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