Future Trends UK – What’s Currently Trending in USA
When it comes to spotting UK trends ahead of time, a very good indicator is usually to look at what is currently trending in the USA.
We know cultures, preferences and trends can vary between these two well-developed economies. However, something you see time and time again within the drinks industry is that once something takes off in the US, it’s not long before we see the trend pick up the pace on this side of the water!
Therefore, we’re going to look at some of the current trends in the USA and highlight some that are very likely to become future UK trends. We’re never that far behind the US when it comes to consumer trends so expect some of the trends on this list to already be making their way into the UK market.
5 Future Trends (UK)
Below, we’ve listed 5 future trends that are highly likely to be picked up by the UK market as a result of their growth in the US. Some of these trends you’ll likely already be noticing mid-way through 2021 but some are more likely to be noticed in the latter part of 2021 and early 2022.
These trends are not guaranteed though. While the UK and US do have a similar market within the drinks industry, there are certain things the UK does not adopt so some of these trends could be hit or miss… Though judging by early indicators, they are more inevitable than not!
1. Hard Seltzer
This may seem like an obvious one but the growth of the hard seltzer in the UK is very much still in its infancy. In the US, White Claw is the market leader in the on-trade and with the reopening of festivals and events in the UK, they’ve wasted no time getting in front of a new audience.
Hard seltzer as a product category is making up around 4% – 5% of category sales for UK festivals in 2021 and while that may not seem like a significant number, for a new product that has had limited exposure in the UK, that market share is substantial!
A word from drink suppliers is that they are getting listing requests on a daily basis for hard seltzers as more and more UK (and international) brands are trying to get ahead of what will inevitably be a huge market over the next few years.
Just some of the new hard seltzer brands to come to market include:
- Bodega Bay
- High Water
- Long Shot
These low calorie, low ABV, and organic drinks are targeting the more health-conscious market which is set to grow further as a result of the pandemic. What was already an obvious trend is only set to pick up steam as more people become aware of hard seltzers over the course of the year.
2. Hard Everything (Mainly RTDs)
In the US, the term “hard” in a beverage refers to something as being alcoholic.
There are certain categories in the US, like cider as the best example, which are not established as being an alcoholic beverage and therefore the word “hard” is used to denote that the drink is indeed alcoholic.
With hard seltzers leading the line in terms of convenience and being an option for the health-conscious, we have since seen a piggy-back approach as different drink categories are now expanding into the “hard” market as RTD options.
We’re not just talking about gimmicks either but genuine products backed by scientific research and consumer demand. A few that you’re likely to have come across a few times this year will be:
- Hard coffee
- Hard kombucha
- Hard CBD
- Hard teas
The hard RTD range is exploding overseas and it’s not just low ABV options leading the line.
These innovative new ways to have “healthy” alcohol – yes it’s a confusing term but Americans are currently obsessed with it – are blurring the lines between product categories. It’s therefore not expected to be long before we see alcoholic coffees and kombuchas join the likes of the hard seltzer ranges over here.
You may have already started to see them being sold on the on-trade and the ones we’d keep an eye on are fermented alcohol ranges.
While kombucha is the most popular fermented alcohol at the moment (with apparent benefits to gut health), Fungtn are a brand developing an adaptogenic beer range with medicinal mushrooms!
It’s too early to say how these categories will fare in the UK as they definitely seem more burning man festival than premium cocktail bar offering, but the potential is certainly there.
To prove just how crazy the current “make any drink alcoholic and see how customers react” trend is in the US, there is even a hard Mountain Dew that’s hit the shelves in the states!
3. Agave Spirits
Tequila and Mezcal are currently having a moment over in the US, the likes of which strike very comparable similarities between the gin boom (read future predictions of gin when we met with watertons reserve gin manufacturers) that we’ve experienced ourselves the last half a decade. Early signs are already showing that agave spirits could very much be the next craft spirit boom to hit the UK.
Traditionally, spirits like tequila or mezcal were only used as a party shot (definitely the case in the UK) or as a specific ingredient in cocktails. The mezcal and tequila trend is hitting everywhere besides the UK at the minute with Cao (an agave spirit bar) taking the spot of the best bar in Asia alongside the craft tequila trend currently sweeping the US.
The craft agave spirit trend is very much the leading reason behind the growth of this spirit range. Tequilas are being made smoother, with lower ABV’s, and with new flavours which is making them a more sessionable spirit than ever before.
Tequila is known for its kick and harsh aftertaste, this is the main reason why you have salt and lime to accompany the shot. Well, the craft spirits coming out offer a much smoother taste that’s offering a great appeal to the casual drinker.
It’s not just craft tequila either, premium tequilas like Don Julio are seeing a growth in popularity and tequila looks set to be a leading spirit for the UK market in the not too distant future, if the US category growth is anything to go by.
4. Alcohol Gifting
Everyone knows that the US is a highly commercial country with advertising companies always prioritising US traffic with campaigns.
Something you may not have noticed though is that this buying is not just individual-focused, no, gifting is significantly on the rise as many look to treat loved ones that do not necessarily live down the road.
The UK is a much more compact island and while it may be the case that relatives and loved ones do quite literally live down the road, the pandemic has accelerated buying habits that have made gifting easier than ever.
The reason? Online shopping.
Over the course of the pandemic, many of us have been sitting at home unable to browse shop aisles and have therefore turned to online shopping.
The previous mental friction between adding your card details online and making a purchase is all but eliminated in 2021. Customers are now comfortable with one-button ordering and convenience has easily overtaken any apprehension most people had with online shopping.
Subscription boxes, delivery experiences (like dining or ready-made cocktails), and gifting services mean that people are not only willing to order more online, they are going out of their way to treat people around them and tapping into this trend is a big opportunity in 2021.
5. Sustainable Products
Sustainability is not just a current trend in the US but something manufacturers, brands, and consumers are adopting globally. The reason we mention this then, is because there are some sustainable products that have actually trended in the UK in the past and could see their way back.
One product, in particular, is boxed wine.
Boxed wine is far from premium and is something that had a moment in the UK when home drinking started to become popular (boxed wine was cheap). While it died off in recent years, we’ve surprisingly seen it become a new, popular option in the US.
The driving factor is of course sustainability. A bag-in-box wine is significantly more sustainable than a glass bottle from a carbon footprint perspective and as a result of the pandemic, people are now appreciating the sanitary and convenience of a BIB wine.
Canned wines are also entering the market at a rapid rate. While the UK and Europe have always preferred a glass bottle for their wine, The US seems to be demonstrating that there is definitely the demand for a more sustainable alternative and it’s not long before we as a nation follow suit.
Typically, a BIB wine is usually a bottom shelf option in most supermarkets, wine experts don’t think it will be long before this becomes a more premiumised option.
6. Low ABV Drinks
The low abv market is not new but it has been dominated to date by alcohol-free products.
Expect to see a lot more low abv wines, beers and spirits hitting the shelves in 2022.
There is an appetite for low abv products already which we have seen from the likes of Clean Co and Small Beer who have developed their products to retain maximum flavour whilst sitting in the low end of the abv spectrum.
Small Beer’s products are all below 2.8% but pack a punch flavour-wise.
This trend will gather pace as the benefit of less alcohol to more mindful drinkers alongside the flavour profile being more in line with typical products in the categories is very appealing.
7. Sustainable Packaging Innovations
Drinks packaging on the whole has a huge amount of work to do in order to become more sustainable. The industry is moving forward on the issue of single-use plastic and carbon footprint caused by heavy exports of materials like glass but it is a slow process.
Fortunately, there are some pioneers who are dragging the industry with them.
EcoSprits is one of those pioneers. A closed-loop spirits distributor that uses an innovative, reusable glass vessel in place of the 6 bottle case called the EcoTote. The EcoTote is sent to hospitality venues and businesses where they refill bottles onsite before sending back to the Ecospirits distribution centres. The innovation drastically reduces waste and carbon emissions.
Alongside Ecosprits, expect to see further sustainability advances in the packaging in the form of sustainable materials (see the Jonnie Walker bottles made of cardboard) and the elimination of packaging that traditionally uses single-use plastic.
This is a vital space for brands to improve on, the environment being the main factor but also the fact that millennials and Gen Z place environmental considerations at the core of buying behaviours.
8. Cognac To Have Its Moment In The Sun
Cognac is a great liquid and has masses of potential for the mainstream. The issue really is the perception of the Cognac and brandy the category to the emerging millennial market. It is seen an after-dinner drink and even then, one for special occasions.
Much of Cognacs growth globally has come from emerging markets such as China and the huge popularity and consistent growth of the product in the USA market.
The UK represents a big opportunity, so we think there will be something of a renaissance for the product in the UK bar scene and among consumers. A greater adoption of the liquid in the on-trade on cocktail menus and work on how consumers should drink it in long drinks will help this growth.
We’ve seen the shoots of this growth with Hennessy delivering a festival activation programme this summer which showcases the brandy in more refreshing long drinks such as Hennessy and Ginger.
While this is not an exhaustive list of trends, the above are trends that are certainly likely to make their way into the UK within the not too distant future – while some are very much establishing themselves already!