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10 Drinks Trends for 2022

December 9, 2021 by Joel Davidge

The drinks industry is in a period of massive change, exacerbated by the pandemic.

2021 saw some elements of pre-Covid life return, with a boom in summer events as restrictions were lifted. However, consumer habits remain markedly different from 2019.

With increases in eCommerce as more of us stay at home, and a focus on sustainability in the wake of COP26, brands need to keep their finger on the pulse to stay relevant.

Below we’ll cover the top 10 drink trends for 2022…

See how we fared with our 2021 predictions

Top drinks trends 2022

Key Takeaways

Tequila is the spirit to watch

Premiumization and Diversification will be key for brand growth

Consumers want evidence of sustainability and climate action

Building a community around your brand identity is vital

1. The end of the Gin boom?

A gin and tonic

Gin has been the “it” spirit of recent years, with the number of UK gin distilleries tripling in size since 2016.

Even through the turbulence of the past two years, gin proved to be the tonic for many, with the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) reporting a 22% rise in sales from the previous year.

Whilst we expect gin to remain popular in 2022 there have been sign that this gin boom may be starting to lose its edge.

Analyzing search intent using Google Trends shows interest in gin soaring since 2015, but dropping after reaching a peak in 2018.

2020’s increased interest in Vodka, Whisky, and Gin can potentially be attributed to lockdowns and restrictions, but so far there has been less interest in gin in 2021.

Time will tell if demand will continue to drop, but this data combined with what we’re hearing in discussions with clients and industry experts suggests that consumers may be looking for different spirits to enjoy.

2. Tequila’s time to shine

1800 tequila with Jarritos Mexican Soda

Chatting to industry experts, this is the number one trend predicted over the next few years.

Tequila Educator for Promixo Spirits Oliver Pergl thinks there are several factors in play, but that education plays a big part in the growth of interest in the spirits.

“Several of the large companies (including Proximo) have put a massive focus into education & advocacy (even more so than before to my knowledge) – this has greatly helped share the message of Tequila and leading to more people being able to enjoy it.”

Proximo distribute 1800 Tequila and Jose Cuervo, and Pergl has noted a steady increase in demand for his Tequila training sessions.

According to him, the UK drinks market is no longer just about getting the “biggest bang for your buck” but about knowing “what’s under the label”.

“Due to the increase of Tequila education, people are seeing how beautiful and unique the process of making Tequila is and it’s helping inform their choices and changing their buying habits.”

This trend of premiumisation is prevalent across the entire drinks sector, as we’ll explore below.

So, whilst some bars will still serve tequila in the “shot, lime, and salt manner”, Pergl believes this image is one soon to be consigned to history, with trends from America (the world’s largest tequila market) coming across to Europe. These include Tequila mixed with soda or tonic coming to across to Europe.

The rise in interest in tequila, and other agave-based spirits like Mezcal can also be associated with increased interest in all things Mexico

Mexican cuisine has grown in popularity across the UK in recent years, and the rise of brunch culture has allowed consumers to discover how well Tequila can pair with food.

Combine this with cultural touch points such as Frida Kahlo’s over sold exhibition in West London in 2018, and the ever-increasing trend of celebrating traditional Mexican holidays such as Dia de los Muertos, it’s clear the UK is going big for Mexico.

Pergl notes that this has led to the UK on trade scene having to adapt to more frequent requests for Tequila and agave-forward cocktails.

“The Margaritas and Palomas will always be popular around the world, but what’s so exciting is seeing how Old Fashioneds and Espresso Martinis twisted with Tequila are now starting to populate popular bar drinks menus.”

Earlier this year we covered how Hacha’s Tequila and Mezcal cocktail competition in East London celebrates the spirits by allowing up and coming bartenders to showcase how to best us them.

With more and more Tequila specialist bars and Mexican-inspired venues, and grocery stores stocking wider varieties of Tequila – it is the perfect time to discover this humble and extraordinary Mexican spirit.

3. Premium is King

Shelves of Bourbon and premium spirits

Data from the wine, beer, and spirits sectors hint that post-pandemic imbibing is all about luxury and premium products.

Bacardi’s 2022 cocktail trends report noting that 50% of bartenders globally reporting that customers are opting for more premium drinks.

Aster Sadler, co-founder of award-winning eco-distillery Wildjac, thinks that health plays a big part in this move towards premium products.

“Consumers have become more health conscious, so they will continue to drink a little less, but higher quality – looking for premium drinks and spirits that they can take their time to savour and enjoy.”

Tequila is benefiting from this premiumization which is driving demand; this can also be seen with Bourbon.

Due to this, we’re saying that new world Whisky is one to watch, with premium products from countries including India, Taiwan and Holland launching products in the UK market.

Another beneficiary of this move to premium is Cognac. We’ve been saying for a while that Cognac is long overdue for a revival, we’ll see whether 2022 is the year it really takes off.

It’s also worth keeping an eye on Cachaça which is seeing growth outside of its home market of Brazil.

4. More Ready to Drink Options

The Cocktail Society's ready to drink bottled cocktails

Whereas demand for ready-to-drink (RTD) products seems unlikely to stop, you may see some changes to the types of products on demand.

Earlier in the year the industry was rocked by stories of two major RTD producers having to write off stock due to over estimating demand.

Boston Beer Co CEO Jim Koch was left nonplussed after the company had taken an “very aggressive” strategy, only to find that orders of their hard seltzer were not as high as expected.

Similarly, Constellation Brands revealed that US$ 66 million worth of seltzer stock had to be written off, again due to over estimating demand.

Don’t count the hard seltzer out yet, but these losses may make businesses more cautious in their strategy for 2022.

However, hard seltzers are just one small part of the ready to drink sector, which we expect to continue to grow next year.

Recent analysis of the sector found that 4 out of the top 10 selling ready-to-drink products were not hard seltzers.

High Noon Black Cherry Vodka & Soda, Smirnoff Ice Original, and Twisted Tea Original show that the future of RTDs is likely to include premixed cocktails, and bold flavours.

5. Expansion of the Low and No Alcohol Range

bodega-bay-low-alcohol-rtd

Everyone fully expects Low and No Alcohol products to continue in popularity.

Research from London’s International Wine & Spirit Research (IWSR) found that more than half (58%) of consumers buying low/no products chose to switch to reduced alcohol products rather than going fully sober.

Over the past few years, the non-alcoholic beer trend in Europe has been growing, and this has bled into the UK market.

Other types of drink are also seeing the change with products like French Bloom a notable example of the new wave of 0% sparkling wines coming onto the market.

Similarly, brands like Cut Classics are offering spirits at an ABV of 20%, much lower than standard spirits.

As well as low alcohol and alcohol-free versions of products like beer, wine, and spirits expect to see reduced alcohol versions of ingredients like vermouth used in the making of cocktails, says The Cocktail Service’s drinks consultant Charlotte.

“More brands are realizing that to recreate the taste of classic cocktails with a lower alcohol percentage, you need lower ABV versions of ingredients like vermouth. I think we’ll see low and no versions of fortified spritz becoming more popular”.

So, expect to see more options for reduced alcohol canned cocktails like Miami Cocktail Company’s 4% Organic SPRITZ range.

6. Sustainability

Carlsberg's snap packs from their drink brand sustainability initiative to reduce plastic rings

“Sustainability will continue to be key in 2022 as consumers increasingly seek brands that can demonstrate devotion to protecting the earth and our environment,” says freelance lifestyle PR and freelance food & drink writer Jo Aspin.

We’ve written recently about some fantastic campaigns by drinks brands looking to showcase their sustainable credentials.

With COP26 fresh in consumers’ minds the mood across the industry is that consumers will increasingly want to see more evidence of action taken to become more sustainable.

In the Whisky world, Duncan McRae from Woven Whisky notes that whilst new players like Nc’nean are genuine flagbearers of the seismic change that is coming in the industry, some larger companies are making ac lot of noise without fully following up with action.

“Scotch Whisky has a huge secondary packaging problem that doesn’t look like it’s going to be addressed any time soon.”

Packaging is a hot topic across the industry, but actions like The Savoy switching to sustainable suppliers like EcoSPIRITS show that progress can be made.

EcoSPIRITS uses low waste technology to eliminate more than 90% of transport and packaging carbon emissions.

Across in the wine world, brands like The Copper Crew and Garçon Wines are tackling the issue of the carbon footprint created by glass wine bottles.

Copper Crew sell 250ml cans of wine (more on this below), whereas Garçon Wines use 100% recycled PET, to create bottles which are 87% lighter and 40% spatially smaller than an average glass wine bottle.

McRae also has hope that big brands like Glenfiddich, whose recent ‘closed loop’ sustainable transport initiative with a fleet running on biogas shows that you don’t need to wait another decade to implement initiatives that can reduce the impact whisky-making has on the environment.

Aster Sadler, founder of Wyre Forest eco distillery Wildjac says that there has been increased demand for their botanical spirits created with natural ingredients.

Some of the ingredients are foraged from where they are based within the Wyre Forest, and Aster believes that going forward there will be less demand for exotic flavours which need to be imported.

This is in part because of the strain on supply chains caused by Covid and Brexit, but also as consumers “continue to engage with their local surroundings and discover what’s on offer closer to home.”

Jo Aspen thinks this drive to go local will lead to more UK companies launching in future.

“We have seen many homegrown UK brands emerge over the last few years with complex flavour profiles including Everleaf and Bax Botanics (two of my particular faves).”

Looking at the on-trade, leading brands like Stoli Vodka are stepping up by providing scalable strategies to help the on-trade reduce waste and incorporate local providers into their supply chain.

7. Drinks Packaging & eCommerce

Garcon Wines Chilean Sauvignon Blanc with postal box

Expect changes in what we package our drinks in, both for delivery and on-trade, but also for the direct-to-consumer market.

For example, sales of boxed wine soared during the first year of the pandemic.

This can be attributed to consumers ordering in larger volumes during lockdown, but reports show that this trend has continued well into 2021.

Wine retailers Majestic revealed that sales of wine in alternative packaging more than tripled this year.

Think: magnums, half bottles, and bag-in-box wines.

Given the trend for moderation discussed earlier, alternative packaging like The Copper Crew 250ml canned wine gives consumers control, allowing them to enjoy a glass without having to open a bottle.

Many ready-to-drink cocktail brands, including our sister company “The Cocktail Society” are incorporating pouches as a delivery option.

Not only does this allow for an expanded range of sizes, but it also makes for an easier delivery – which will be key as eCommerce continues to grow.

The total value of the e-commerce sector is expected to grow exponentially by 66% over the next five years, according to the IWSR.

Nicholas Palmer at Bowl Grabber Wines thinks we’ll continue to see growth in cans as an alternative packaging method for wines and spirits, although he thinks this will be driven by consumption occasions as opposed to a switch towards formats with environmental benefits.

“Despite what they may say, consumers are driven by occasion as opposed to any other overly rational motivation (e.g. environmental benefits),” he says.

“What we haven’t had since the canned wine market really started moving is a hot hot summer where everyone can see each other (and deliver the social proof around can drinking)!”

8. Beer

A pint of BrewDog lager

The word in the brewing world is that a lager renaissance is just around the corner.

Industry experts tell us that the market has become so saturated with hazy India Pale Ales, that they expect 2022 to see more products like Sour Beers, and potentially more small independent breweries focusing on lager.

As an interesting counterpart to the rise of low and non-alcoholic beers, 2020 saw a higher demand for beers with a higher alcohol by volume (ABV).

It would seem habits are changing, with consumers split between those who choose to drink less and those who will drink less but opt for a stronger beer.

As with the lo and no sector, diversification is another beer trend to watch.

Will more breweries follow BrewDog’s suit in launching secondary products like gin?

If so, this would suggest a move towards brand identity becoming more important than ever.

Whereas before, companies would be known as a beer company, or a gin distiller, the future may see more brands with ranges including different types of spirits, and products like beer and wine.

And that’s before we even get into the business of celebrity drink brands…

9. Celebrity Brands, Community, and Brand Identity

Influencer Kendal Jenner in 818 Tequila merch

Celebrity endorsement and drinks advertising have long gone hand in hand.

But it seems now more than ever, wily celebs have realised how much more potential profit there can be in launching their own range, as opposed to simply starring in an ad for someone else’s product.

What does this mean for the industry? Whilst there is still plenty of room in the spirits category for smaller independents, we think this is a trend well worth watching.

For example, it’s potentially driving some of the changes we’ve discussed earlier, with Oliver Pergl from Proximo Spirits citing The Rock, Kendall Jenner, and Pierce Brosnan dabbling in the Tequila world as key factors for the growth of the spirit in recent years.

We’re expecting more celebrities to launch their own products in 2022, and that in doing so, the traditional relationship between brand and consumer will shift.

In 2022, building a community is vital.

Take Kendal Jenner’s 818 Tequila brand recently doing a merch line drop.

With profits reportedly going back into rural Mexican communities which help produce the spirit, this ticks boxes for sustainability, corporate social responsibility and gets the logo in front of new audiences as consumers become a walking advertisement.

Leveraging Kendal Jenner’s aspirational image means that these clothes are not simply niche accessories linked to a specific drink but a marker of being part of an elite tribe which others will want to join.

Savvy marketing, and a savvy business move indeed.

Where the leaders go, others will follow, so don’t be surprised if you see other brands attempting similar moves.

There are other ways to build community of course, and Duncan McRae notes the rise in Whisky clubs, subscription services and tasting sets as ways for brands to engage with their audience.

“Whereas in the olden days people used to find a brand they liked, trusted or connected with, and stuck to it for life (literally) a new generation of drinkers is curious and thirsty for discovery and knowledge.”

Woven’s 3 x 10cl tasting sets created for a media launch became a surprise hit when they were added to their online store.

“Nobody was more surprised than us,” recalls founder Duncan McRae.

Brands like Whisky Me and Drinks by the Dram offer people the chance to discover new whisky each month, without having to take the plunge on the price of a whole bottle.

In the gin world, the Craft Gin Club boasts 171K Instagram followers, and a lively Facebook community.

“The combination of low barrier to entry, high experience/education, and community means that these subscription models are only going to gain in popularity,” says McRae.

Wildjac’s Aster also lists the importance of community as one of the biggest lessons learned as a relative newbie to the spirits world.

“Covid has made people stop and think about the products they’re buying and the importance of supporting local businesses. People like to speak directly to business owners and understand their story.”

10. Classic Flavours

nutty-cocktail

“We’ve seen an increase in demand for simple, understated serves at events” reports The Cocktail Service’s Events Director Andy Styles.

Wildjac’s Aster Sadler agrees and believes that the pandemic has pushed consumers towards comfort and rediscovering classic flavours.

This is where I think seasonal flavours will continue to do well as consumers want to reflect the time of year in what they eat and drink.”

With this in mind, and looking at data insights from earlier this year, we think 2022 will be another good year for citrus and fruit flavours.

Research from leading flavour producer T. Hasegawa Co. saw these tastes edging out less impactful herbal and floral flavours in 2021.

This may be another reason for the knocks experienced by some hard seltzer brands this year.

So, simplicity is key. Clean, aesthetically pleasing drinks with punchy flavours are in.

“Expect a focus on the drink itself, rather than gimmicky garnishes,” says our Head of Operations David.

“Guests want drinks they can recognize so we’re expecting twists on classics like the Negroni or Martini to be a key events trend for 2022.”

Wild Card Entry: The Clover Club comeback

Clover-Club-cocktail

We asked our events team for their boldest prediction for 2022.

No data, just a gut feeling and their finger on the pulse of the drinks industry.

Their answer: the Clover Club is due a comeback.

You heard it here first, folks.

Want more like this?

So there we have it, the top drinks trends 2022 as predicted by the UK’s leading drinks agency.

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