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7 Drink Trends for 2021

April 29, 2021 by Simon Byrne

Drink trends are ever-changing and while it’s always good to keep your finger on the pulse, sometimes trends change seemingly out of nowhere.

Who saw the Aperol Spritz and Espresso Martini resurgence in 2019 coming?

For 2021 though, you get the feeling that keeping up to date on the latest trends is now more important than ever as operators and consumers look to get back to a new way of life post-pandemic.

Will customers spend more time at home (a trend that has been growing for the last two decades anyway)? Is the focus on healthy living impacting drink options? What are brands and operators planning as they look to get back to full working capacity?

Below we’ll cover the top 7 drink trends of 2021 and see how you can look to take advantage of a new era for the drinks industry…


1. Sustainable Products

One of the biggest trends for 2021 is sustainability.

Operators, brands and manufacturers have had plans in place for a number of years to reduce carbon emissions, offer more environmentally and sustainable products and eliminate single-use plastics. The pressure is therefore mounting for 2021 to really be the year of change within the industry.

The public wants it and if we are being honest, the drinks industry is only a Netflix documentary away from having a serious issue. We’ve already seen the strong viewpoint on plastic straws and 6-pack rings in the ocean so adopting a sustainable approach is not just a trend in 2021 but also a priority.

Fortunately, innovation has already made its way into the industry and there are certainly some interesting sustainable practices already being introduced. Carlsberg as an example has already eliminated the plastic rings from their range in favour of new and patented “snap packs”.

Brewdog has committed to not only going carbon neutral but they are taking it to the next level with a pledge to become carbon negative []. You’ll also find that sustainable drinks brands are emerging at an almost weekly rate to earn customer loyalty and trust with their sustainable message and processes.

Whether it’s bamboo straws, an elimination of plastic or even just opting to use local supply chains, sustainability will be at the forefront of 2021 drinks trends and some might say rightly so.


2. Canned Range

This is in part linked to sustainability but the canned product range deserves its own segment as it’s grown exponentially over the last two years and is set to boom in 2021.

‘Tinnies’ are no longer just a can of lager while RTDs are seeing significant growth as both brands and categories are jumping on the canned product range to match consumer demand.

We’re seeing new products enter the market that has surprisingly taken off. The most surprising introductions to this range are canned wines, prosecco, and cocktails.

Great tasting, pre-mixed cocktails are a tricky concept to get right and when you add them into a can, you’d be right to think this combination is doomed for failure. The reverse is actually true though as consumers are enjoying a refreshing and simple cocktail mix be it in a bar or in their back gardens.

MOTH and Ace+Freak have definitely made the most of this trend to date with their respective offering of classic and more modern cocktails, though established and more mainstream brands like Smirnoff, Bacardi, Gordons and even Malibu are expanding their range to meet the growing demand.

Consumers are opting for a refreshing and easily accessible cocktail option and no longer care that it’s in a can.

Similarly, we’re seeing venues opting for the likes of Can O Water, Cansecco (prosecco in a can, surely not!) and even canned wines as a preferred range. This is not just due to the benefits of using aluminium on the environment but consumers are currently loving the canned range and it’s a trend set to grow into the summer and beyond.


3. Low & No Alcohol

The UK has gradually started to become a more health-conscious nation in recent years with gym memberships up to a staggering 9.7 million according to Statista. Supermarket health ranges are also reflecting this growing trend not just in terms of drinks selection but with entire health isles in some stores.

As a result of the pandemic, the focus on health and wellbeing is also seeing a knock-on effect within the drinks industry and low or non-alcoholic (NoLo) options are becoming viable and in-demand options.

The token menu offering of just one zero alcohol beer (usually hidden in the bottom corner of a fridge display) or lazily made mocktail list simply won’t suffice in 2021.

A varied option is needed and seltzers, especially hard seltzers like the Bodega Bay and Chase’s offerings, are proving to be a popular option for calorie and sugar conscious consumers. This trend is a boomer in the US but is also growing momentum in this UK so expect this to continue.

A genuine mocktail offering to match the alcoholic variants is also needed as orange juice, cranberry juice, a splash of soda and topped with an orange wedge for garnish is not something the 2021 consumer will want to share on their Insta stories!

Finally, alcohol-free spirits (led in part by the popularity of Seedlip in 2019) are needed to cater to the growing number of people who still want to enjoy the social aspect of eating/drinking out without being limited to just having sparkling water or a traditional soft drink.

The low and no alcohol category is not a flash in the pan trend but one that is definitely a growing category to tap into in 2021 and beyond.


4. At Home Drinking

Since the early 2000s, the growing trend has been drinking at home with supermarket bought booze which led to an exodus of pubs and bars shutting over the last two decades.

While a lot of people have been desperate to get out and enjoy hospitality again, a surprising number of people will still be opting to drink at home in 2021.

One reason being that people still don’t feel safe or comfortable socialising at present and with the economic climate being shaky, many can’t justify a “luxury” trip to a bar or restaurant.

This leaves a huge opportunity to reach the stay at home customers and the opportunity is there for brands/operators to expand and reach their customers from the comfort of their own homes.

Subscription based services and experiences like our virtual cocktail masterclasses and bottled cocktail delivery range (more on bottled cocktails later) are bringing the social aspect of bars right to customers’ living rooms and are still in high demand but underutilised within the industry.

Restaurants have successfully tapped into the at-home consumer and changed their business models through necessity rather than choice with delivery and subscription based offerings. Still, at home drinking is going to continue to grow well into 2021 and beyond so reaching your target audience where they live is crucial.

This then leads us nicely onto another opportunity/trend that has come about in part due to the pandemic…


5. Online Shops

As mentioned above, people are drinking at home more and this is expected to continue but buying habits have also changed drastically. Consumers have made the switch to online shopping with very little friction and the drinks industry, both brands and venues, has a lot of potential to capitalise on this.

Online stores with merch, gift sets, bottled cocktails, subscription services and most basic of all, a product list, should definitely be a focal point in 2021.

Consumers are not just comfortable making transactions online, it’s now the preferred method of shopping. Brands should be tapping into this desire to spend money online by making an online shop a key feature of the brand and site/app rather than an afterthought or non-existent category.

We’ve seen gigs and venues utilize merch for years as an additional source of income but brands, bars and restaurants have not really had a previous route to market of their own in the digital space.

The opportunity to not only reach but sell to your target market is now easier than ever and drinks brands and hospitality venues should be using this to connect with their customers whilst also adding an additional revenue stream in the process.


6. New Product Ranges

The development and popularity of new products are ever-changing. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic ranges are expanding in 2021 and there are certain product ranges that are definitely showing promise.

This trend might not be what you’re expecting though. The new product range is not just a new flavour gin (like we don’t have enough of those already) or a revitalised cocktail, oh no, what we are talking about are new product categories altogether!

Some of the most interesting are the nootropic, gut-friendly, adaptogenic, wellness based ranges. Yeah, that sounds a little vague but have you seen the emergence of the new adaptogenic beers!

You may not have heard of Fungtn who are leading the market with their medicinal mushroom (or adaptogenic) range but after reading this, you can be sure that you’ll start to notice this trend more and more in 2021.

This is not just a reduced ABV product, otherwise, we’d have just mentioned it in the low and no category earlier. Rather, it’s a category that aims to mimic the satisfaction of drinking beer with the added benefit on mental/psychological health and wellbeing similar to what we are seeing with some CBD infused alcohol ranges.

Hard kombuchas are being developed that have the added benefit of improving gut health and when we are talking specifically about 2021 drinks trends, hard coffees definitely have the feeling that it’s a market to jump into quickly.

Findings show an 11,000% increase in sales from 2019 for hard coffees but, to be honest, it’s unlikely to be one of the trends that stays around long term.

Spiritless spirits are now a thing and a common theme within the drinks industry this year is that brands are focusing on the beneficial aspects of their drinks and trying to create a “healthy” range, despite alcohol, in general, being viewed as an “unhealthy” option.

Therefore, expect to see more brands like Fungtn and Nude enter the market in 2021 with the trend clearly looking like “healthy” alcoholic ranges are the way forward.


7. Cocktails (Retro and Bottled)

The aftermath of the pandemic is going to be noticeable on cocktails perhaps more than any other category.

Firstly, brands and operators jumped on the opportunity to provide bottled, pre-mixed cocktails via delivery (whilst also taking advantage of some loose licensing laws and blurring the lines between the on and off-trade) and customers are loving it.

Similar to the growth in canned cocktails, as customers can’t watch the creation of their favourite cocktails live, they’ve been more than happy to turn to the pre-mixed variations with surprising eagerness. Expect the bottled cocktail range to grow in 2021 with branding and experimental mixes primed for exploitation and exploration.

Secondly, cocktails are not a cheap business. An extensive and unique cocktail range makes for a delicate GP% and high price for customers, plus we’ve all seen some cocktail menus resemble a cocktail encyclopedia at times as the current cocktail range is seemingly endless in some bars!

Therefore, expect to see the demand for simpler and classic cocktails increase rapidly in 2021 as a stripped back and more streamlined cocktail range will be the default option. One interesting trend is the emergence of the retro or “disco cocktail” range.

The simple classics from the 70s/80s are very much back in popularity (did they ever really go away?).

The paired down yet visually eye-catching cocktails like Sex on the Beach, Blue Hawaii and Tequila Sunrise, to name just a few, are back on the menu with a few modern twists.

The Artesian in London for example recently introduced their own disco drinks range. This included Instagram ready presentation whilst still being true to the original ingredients with drinks including a frozen Blue Hawaii and a soufflé-esque Amaretto Sour.

Expect to see more cocktail bars and menus utilise the disco cocktails to add more cheer, vibes and fun in a year where it’s certainly overdue and needed.

Final Thoughts

As the UK comes out of lockdown, there’s a feeling that things are not going to go back to “normal” just yet and the drinks industry as a whole will certainly reflect that.

Consumers want to order more items to their doors (step forward bottled cocktails and Deliveroo adopters), everyone is focusing on health and wellbeing (hard seltzers and adaptogen beers are less of a trend and more of a potential glimpse into the future) and perhaps the biggest trend of all for 2021…

A recovery in an industry that was almost destroyed in 2020!

Expect sales for ALL categories to explode from Q2 onwards with some of the trends mentioned above being at the forefront of this recovery.


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