This report explains how the pandemic has changed the way we drink alcohol

By now, it’s no surprise that COVID-19 has completely revolutionized the bar and restaurant industry – to a point where previously familiar trends are now unrecognizable. Thinking back to last year, it’s easy to recognize the obvious changes in the industry, but what does all of this mean for the future?

For the second year in a row, Bacardi Limited has released its annual trend report; a culmination of industry knowledge to shed light on how consumers plan to soak up in 2021. “This trending information has been a window for our consumers and trade on our views on the Cultural zeitgeist of cocktails, ”said Brenda Fiala, Bacardi’s head of analysis at Forbes.

Bacardi compiled data from its survey of global brand ambassadors, consumer surveys, external research commissioned by Nielsen CGA as well as The Future Laboratory, a foresight consultancy specializing in forecasting and foresight of trends, for a more universal perspective in Bacardi’s 2021 report.

“It has been more important than ever to see how cocktail culture and the renaissance of bars, clubs and restaurants can unfold as freedom of movement returns… as well as information on how these trends are being embraced by people in different countries, ”Fiala said.

According to the trends report, when we are able to reassemble a bar stool safely again, there will be a sense of experimentation and demand for off-menu cocktails, as consumers have spent more than a year to prepare themselves. The report said, “Twenty percent of consumers are now keen to explore drinks that were not on their radar before the lockdown, including premium versions of their favorite spirits.” Bacardi predicts that the best opportunities for premiumization are tequila, dark rum, and mezcal.

However, as the majority of the world is still tracking home orders, as bars remain closed, the focus is on home celebrations with ready-to-drink (RTD) drinks, such as canned cocktails and drinks. single serving. The report reads: “People fall in love with the culture of convenience brought about by the rise of e-commerce and the ability to have just about anything delivered to their doorstep.” According to Nielsen CGA, RTDs have grown 131% in the US market over the past year.

Other macroeconomic findings included an increase in the percentage of spritzes and low-alcohol cocktails, as well as the rise of caffeinated alcoholic beverages like kombucha, up 43%, and coffee-based cocktails. , 38%. The report also cited a “craving for extreme flavors” with tastes of chili, bitter and smoky. And of course, with sustainability trends, as the report reveals, consumers are increasingly looking for brands that are environmentally friendly and even offer zero waste ingredients.

The latter is something that Bacardi is particularly passionate about; Fiala shared that sustainability is part of the brand’s heritage, but also part of its future as they are in the process of creating a 100% biodegradable bottle of spirits and aim to be 100% plastic-free by 2030. .

Below, Brenda Fiala shares more of the report’s general findings, including the most surprising trends and her predictions about returning to bars.


Jillian Dara: What did you find to be the most surprising or unusual trend?

Brenda Fiala: The speed at which people have embraced their inner mixologist. People took advantage of this time at home to improve their skills and discover the joy of making their own cocktails. They have gone from satisfying simple blends to craving more elaborate cocktails with premium spirits. This trend has accelerated with the availability of content and teachings from star bartenders online, which they would otherwise not have access to.

There has been a spike in internet searches for “cocktail recipes” over the past year, and research conducted by Nielsen CGA in late 2020 showed that 40% of US consumers were actively looking for cocktail kits. cocktails, the demand for which does not seem to be slowing down. We anticipate that people armed with their newfound cocktail knowledge and taste for good spirits will be more knowledgeable, experienced and appreciate the skills of bartenders when they return to bars.

Dara: What was a finding that varied so drastically from previous years?

Fiala: We are seeing the acceleration of tequila. Interest in this category is strongest in North America and continues to experience strong double-digit growth compared to last year.

Dara: What are the most popular RTDs that you see?

Fiala: Canned cocktails are a format that continues to gain in popularity. The love for cocktails combined with a culture of convenience and prudence drives the sales of this format. Americans want to taste great and cut calories and sugar. This dual purpose – along with the convenience of multi-flavor cans and packaging – means people can have choice, convenience, and conscientious consumption all in one.

Dara: What do you think consumers will see as sustainable?

Fiala: We know that consumers are particularly concerned about the sustainability of the products they consume. They expect companies to care about people and materials in their supply chain and seek transparency both in the process of manufacturing the end product and what goes with it.

Dara: How do you think bar culture as we know it will evolve after the pandemic?

Fiala: In the short term, we’ll see two main types of bar culture emerge: the throwback to the Roaring Twenties of the 1920s that are starting to creep into conversations, mostly by people hungry for human interaction and looking for a release of joy and celebration. with others after the pandemic. We anticipate the rise of small gatherings and occasions that create real moments of connection with friends and family. JOMO – the joy of missing out – doesn’t mean people pull out; it means their meetings are more thoughtful and meaningful. So quieter bars, with the possibility of conversing while enjoying excellent drinks, will develop.

Dara: With the trend for low-ABV drinks, do you have any findings on the dry months?

Fiala: Before 2020, periods such as dry January and sober October were starting to gain traction in the United States, and we have seen this trend towards more conscious consumption continue this year. Although the number of people attending Dry January has declined, mentions of this occasion are still under discussion, although the mentions are mostly humorous and relate to the fact that now is not a good time.

In our research, we consistently find that the majority (over 70%) of people claim to drink the same amount – it’s just that we drink more at home than at the bar, as we did before lockouts. People change their rituals for having a drink to mark the end of the work day and the start of the evening – previously they would hang out at their local bar or meet friends at a restaurant or bar after work. So while the location for sales has shifted from bars to grocery stores and liquor stores, people are still concerned with purchasing quality spirits that make tasty drinks.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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