When you reopen the doors to your bar, what's the first drink your customers will order to toast their freedom? Something a bit more celebratory than what they've been drinking for weeks at home, the suppliers are betting. James Stagg looks at some premium ways to raise a glass
When the time comes for operators to once again open their doors, the public will be thirsty for experiences that are different to what they have been enjoying at home. So while a glass of white wine or an IPA will still be staples on the terrace, there are likely to be plenty of other options to get the juices flowing.
Prior to lockdown the key word around hospitality was premiumisation, and with alcohol consumption at home currently higher than ever, it's likely that thirsty consumers will be looking for a point of difference when they finally venture out.
According to a report from CGA published in February, 47% of consumers were willing to pay more for a better-quality drink. It also identified a surge in very high-end sales in 2019, including a 21% growth in super-premium spirits.
Mark Jackson, senior client manager at CGA, says: "It's a complex and fast-changing story, and we've seen the market diverge substantially over the past year, with examples of growth in both super-premium and mainstream categories. Where the market goes from here remains to be seen – but it's clear that an understanding of the nuances in consumers' attitudes to factors like quality, range and price is more crucial than ever in 2020."
When the time comes to open the doors, there will be some work to do to persuade a wary consumer to venture to a pub, restaurant or bar. Lindsay Castling, Estrella Galicia marketing manager UK and Ireland, says that the industry must speak with a unified voice: "We all need to work together as a community within the hospitality industry and actively promote going out and remind consumers of the emotive side they have missed from having a pint with friends or a family meal out," she adds.
"Staff are likely to need a refresher on their training and suppliers should lead this. If the UK follows the pattern of Wuhan, the return may be slow, and initial time back to work can still be productive in ensuring outlets are the best they can be.
"Suppliers absolutely need to be advocating new government guidelines but can still be offering promotions or experiences to re-engage the consumer and drive interest back to the trade."
Make it special
Though undoubtedly consumers will be price-sensitive when we all emerge from lockdown, they will want to celebrate their restored freedom, says Steve Morris, sales director at Jestic Foodservice Solutions.
"When the battle against Covid-19 is won and operators can once again open their doors, we imagine there will be a rush from the public wanting to raise a glass to bid good riddance to one of the most challenging periods many of us have lived through," he adds.
"What better way to toast the end of coronavirus in the warmer summer months than with a delicious and refreshing frozen cocktail or granita, such as a mojito or a frozen take on a Singapore sling?"
He says that while there are many options for pre-made or pre-mixed drinks, a commercial blender is a vital piece of equipment to help mixologists create the perfect cocktail or granita.
Adding an affordable point of difference will be crucial. According to Helen Hyde, business unit manager at Creative Foods Europe, which distributes Tabasco, many of its customers are looking for interesting and innovative ways of bringing customisation to the consumer.
"A terrific example is the ‘Bloody Mary Station', where consumers can personalise their cocktail on a scale of ‘mild to wild'," she says. Though any such innovation will have to adhere to current distancing requirements.
"And, because it only takes a couple of drops to add real flavour, this is a cost-effective way of adding a point of difference to a cocktail," Hyde adds. "Premiumisation is another growing trend and it's very easy to give a popular drink such as the humble gin and tonic a real kick with Tabasco Green Sauce, allowing the operator to command a premium price."
For Mast-Jägermeister UK marketing director Nicole Goodwin, any summer menu has to be experience-led, and shots and cocktails are great for summer.
"Shots are often part of a memorable night out, bringing friends together in a celebratory manner," she adds. "Warm weather drinks menus can feature long drinks that are packed with flavour and are easy-drinking. Must-haves for operators are products that consumers recognise and trust and can be used in more ways than one. There are a wide range of products available, so operators need to choose wisely as time and money are of the most importance."
It's a sentiment echoed by J2O, which believes that customers will be more likely to look for an alternative to their typical alcoholic beverage, having become tired of the offer at home. It says that its new products – spritz apple and elderflower and a summer limited-edition pear and guava (pictured right) – deliver on both value and premiumisation, while also meeting the trend towards reduced alcohol.
Adam Russell, director of foodservice and licensed at Britvic says: "Our new J2O variants have been designed to support outlets in meeting the demand for the growing number of customers looking to elevate their experience with more premium options. The new flavours and format will help encourage trade up, particularly during the busy summer period when there is a significant increase in adult socialising occasions.
"Adult soft drinks consumed alongside food is another key growth area where the new J2O variants will excel, and they can be offered alongside all meal occasions."
IBC Simply has moved towards more unusual pairings in order to create a buzz with new and exciting beverages. It is launching a new range of Simply Fruit Coolers, which include the Simply dragon fruit and mango, described as a colourful thirst quencher, loaded with tropical flavour. No doubt appealing to Instagrammers with its vibrant pink hue, the cooler, which is diluted with water, can be garnished with fresh fruit to attract interest and justify an extra price point.
IBC Simply director Ricky Flax explains: "Dragon fruit is an emerging flavour in the UK and we are delighted to be first to market in this cooler format, which is guaranteed to be super-popular with millennials and Gen Z, who are big consumers of chilled drinks and adventurous in their tastes.
"Because of the striking pink colour, the drink is perfect for standing out on summer menu boards, point of sales and for themed evenings and special events."
A good selection of soft drinks is vital to attracting a broad selection of guests and a growing demand from those looking for healthier options. According to EcoPure Waters, satisfying this demand can be as simple as serving chilled, filtered drinking water. Moreover, using filtered water means saving money and improving sustainability.
Paul Proctor, managing director of EcoPure Waters, adds: "Serving filtered water in your own-brand bottles keeps your name and logo on the table right in front of your customers at all times – a much better option than promoting someone else's brand of bought-in bottled water.
"Customising the bottle also provides you with an opportunity to explain your sustainability agenda and credentials to your customers, which helps enhance your brand value and build customer loyalty to your responsible business."
Even brands that guests wouldn't normally associate with low sugar or alcohol are getting in on the act. Red Bull has introduced a new formulation with no sugar, while Hensol Castle Distillery has launched a range of liqueurs that, it says, allow health-conscious consumers to have a tipple without tipping the scales.
Trulo, one of the distillery's first products (pictured right), is a low-sugar, low-calorie and lower-alcohol liqueur available in four flavours: coconut rum, espresso, passion fruit and peach melba schnapps. Each liqueur has between 31 to 36 calories per 25ml serving, and an ABV of 14.9%.
The drink is the brain-child of founding partner and managing director Andy Mallows. He explains: "It all came about after I listened to my daughter complain of her guilt from consuming too many calorie-laden cocktails during a night out. It prompted me to create something that would appeal to her and her health-conscious friends.
"At the time, I never anticipated that we would be launching Trulo during a time of national crisis. But with many increasing their alcohol consumption as they are confined to their home bar, it's more important than ever that there is a quality low-sugar, low-calorie and lower-alcohol alternative available with which to enjoy those virtual catch-ups with friends and families."
And in keeping with the spirit of camaraderie that we will all be keen to toast when the time comes, Hensol Castle Distillery has converted its newly opened Trulo production lines into making hand sanitiser. Work is now under way to make 1.2 million litres a month.
There will be plenty to talk about when guests can once again raise a glass together, and no doubt they'll be doing it with something special.
Take three: new tipples for every taste
Gin brand Gordon's has launched its Sicilian lemon distilled gin. Designed to capitalise on the ongoing gin trend, the lemon gin follows in the footsteps of Gordon's pink distilled gin – which, according to Nielsen Scantrack data, has become the most successful new spirit product development in the last decade.
Jessica Lace, head of Gordon's Europe, says: "As consumers become more adventurous with their drinks choices and want to explore new flavours, there is an ever-increasing appetite for different styles of gin."
Two Keys is a new range of sparkling mixers, offering an alternative to tonic and soda. The four-strong range, available in 200ml recycled glass bottles, consists of green tea, black tea, pink grapefruit, and lemon. Co-founder James Simpson says: "There isn't another mixer brand on the market like us, offering the variety of flavours and quality of ingredients that we do. Instead of masking the individual flavours of spirits like tequila, gin and whisky, our mixers enhance them and are of a quality that recognises the skill and craft that has gone into making them."
Beavertown Brewery has launched Nanobot, a new low-alcohol ‘Super Session' IPA. The 2.8% beer is brewed with Sabro and Simcoe hops, packing it with punchy citrus and juicy tropical top notes. It was created to give beer fans greater choice when it comes to their drinking experience, without having to compromise on flavour.
Beavertown founder Logan plant says: "When Beavertown started we were all about creating punchy, big-hitting beers that people hadn't had before in the UK. Nowadays, people want even more from their food and drink choices to suit their lifestyle and a lot of the time, that can mean choosing a low ABV or fewer calories at the expense of something else – flavour. We want to remedy that with Nanobot."
Beavertown Brewery www.beavertownbrewery.co.uk
Creative Foods Europe www.creativefoodseurope.eu
EcoPure Waters www.ecopurewaters.com
Estrella Galicia www.estrellagaliciabeer.co.uk
Hensol Castle Distillery www.hensolcastledistillery.com
IBC Simply www.italianbev.co.uk
Jestic Foodservice Solutions www.jestic.co.uk
Two Keys www.twokeysldn.co.uk
Red Bull www.redbull.com
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