A digitised on-trade, premium in home drinking experiences and ‘liquid personalisation’ have been identified as the key trends for the year ahead by research and analyst company Rewrite Digital.
The findings, from its Digital in Drinks 2020 Report, released in conjunction with a supporting webinar on Thursday 25 June, suggest a drinkscape that will continue to be much altered as the world learns to live with Covid-19.
Examining the trade’s “current digital maturity”, while examining “the latest innovative examples” of how globally operators and their customers have adapted to the key challenges and opportunities presented by digital, the report described digital growth as “massively accelerated” by Covid-19.
Citing a fivefold increase in alcohol sales during March, April and May vs the same period in 2019 (Nielsen), webinar host Jon Reay of Rewrite Digital said that 78% of companies researched reported that their digital maturity had “gone up slightly or significantly”.
Whereas in 2019, the median response of businesses was that most fell into a category of being “about the same as the industry norm”, by the end of May 2020 some 78% said their digital maturity was “good – punching above the industry norm”.
Top digital innovation in the drinks sector cited included the personalisation of experience for consumers, immersive aspects of blockchain, the advance of AI in shaping and determining those experiences, along with greater emphasis on multi-sensory drinking occasions, the emergence of a virtual on-trade and the DTC and in home drinking phenomenon.
Examples presented by panellists were varied and instructive, including Monker’s Garkle, a new gin recipe and label design created by a ‘neural network’, and an AI tool named What’s your Whisky?, designed to find the ‘perfect’ taste profile for any given spirits drinker.
Postable premium cocktails, live virtual pub evenings, complete with live music, quizzes and conversation, along with VR advances, such as one dubbed Rekorder-land, offering “a multi-sensory experience that transits you to a new world”, were all highlighted.
The huge growth of DTC and in home drinking in the absence of an open on-trade has obviously driven such activity, or accelerated trends that were already emerging pre-pandemic.
But with large drinks producers reporting up to 1,000% increase in DTC sales over last year, and frontline on-trade operators also embracing ecommerce and servicing the home drinking market, the response to the ongoing ‘new norm’ looks set to stick, according to the report.
It found that those same in home consumers are demanding premium home experiences, with on-trade fast moving to create drinks at scale that reflect individual preferences and tastes, to further enhance the occasion.
The experience in the on-trade would also be changed by digitisation, said Reay.
As people start to go back into bars and restaurants in different parts of the world, the role that technology plays in those venues is going to be different to how it was,” he said.
“In the UK, for example, you know there’s been a lot of talk about people ordering drinks from their tables, without going up to the bar, checking in with their details – if you reserve a space to go and have a drink in a pub, you might need to book that time in a way that you wouldn’t really have needed to have done before.”
Aspects like touchless interfaces will mean that the on-trade environment will have a lot more technology embedded in it, added Reay, including a need to meet an upswing in advanced ordering ahead – plus a checking out of the safety protocols in place – ahead of going out.
However, current insights from the Rewrite Digital research suggests that in home drinking will remain an important part of the mix in many people’s drinking repertoires over the next 12 months and possibly more.
Details of the Digital in Drinks 2020 Report and an option to purchase can be found here.