Alcohol and ready-to-drink (RTD) trends have had two rollercoaster years. From the rise of hard seltzers to consumers significantly increasing their drinking or giving up drinking entirely. Then, of course, we had a global pandemic, leading to improved accessibility and user experience for online ordering.
The most noticeable shift in drinking culture was in-home drinking trends, a result of global lockdowns, higher stress levels, and more disposable income. And even as bars reopen, many early pandemic trends have stuck, with Nielson reporting that off-premises alcohol sales remaining far above pre-pandemic levels, even as growth rates slow down. Why? Because “some consumers are still hesitant to return to on premise, and similarly, some consumers have developed homebody mentalities that will linger for the foreseeable future.”
In Korea, the trend of drinking alone at home has been dubbed “homsul,” with consumption of fruit wines shifting from a special occasion drink to something enjoyed every day. Singaporeans began spending up to $500 a month on alcohol delivery, while RedMart reported 15% increase in champagne and sparkling sales. In Australia, wine subscription clubs continue to grow, offering a stress-free way to sample.
Because in-home drinking is a complete shift in lifestyle, capturing off-premises occasions means brands must rethink the entire end-to-end experience. We examine four ways brands can capture these off-trade drinking opportunities.
Rethink Health and ABV
Younger consumers are becoming more health conscious than ever before, taking more care in what they drink and how they drink. Health and low-ABV trends are blurring the lines in meaningful ways, with brands like Sea Arch, which is made with botanicals and advertises itself “to be enjoyed with a clear head” and Corona launching its Sunbrew alcohol-free beer, which is fortified with Vitamin D.
By putting forth messaging about mindful drinking, “sober curiosity,” and prioritising relaxation over socialising, brands are reflecting new consumers priorities, and showing you can be healthy AND drink to it.
For those who can afford it, people are drinking less, but higher quality alcohol. And with category mashups and RTD cocktails on the rise, old pack design codes are being broken and rewritten.
Alcohol packaging is seeing four big changes:
- Premiumised Portability. By combining portable formats with premium design, your brand can communicate artisanal craft on the go.
- Gender Neutrality. Design is becoming more gender neutral and lifestyle forward to reach ever-widening audiences and occasions beyond the bar.
- Interactivity. In an Instagram-centric world, alcohol brands should upgrade their delivery to create sharable, premium unboxing experience in-home.
- Sustainability. New pack formats like pouches, flat bottles, and eco rings can create buzz around your brand’s eco credentials.
Recreate Bar Rituals
Just because they’re at home or on-the-go, doesn’t mean consumers don’t miss the bar experience. For some brands it means an integration of the physical and virtual experience, like Grey Goose’s online mixology series that shows how drinks are made, or Untappd’s variety packs paired with livestream tastings.
Other possibilities mean enhancing the solo physical experience for consumers, like Laiba’s cocktail set, which includes separately packed garnishes that let drinkers add their final touch. When the rituals of drinking are as important to the experience as the drink itself, give home entertainers the chance to recreate them with made-by-you flourishes, do-it-yourself mixology sets, and virtual classes/content that lets them up their connoisseurship.
Rethink Business Models & Occasions
When alcohol-free is on the rise, why not “drink all day?” Go beyond traditional messages to challenge how, when, and where to drink, to capture whole day need states.
Similarly, there are more ways to reach consumers at home than ever before. Subscription services like Whiskey Loot make it easy for consumers to sample a wide variety of concoctions, while “Blind boxes” have exploded in popularity in China, letting consumers discover surprising wines—sometimes with surprising value.
While brands that take an editorial approach with pairing stories and fostering conversation can make the product fun and accessible.
How does this translate for your business?
Innovative product formulations like low-ABV launches are proving it is time for beverage brands to grow the category of “functional beverages.”
Brands that go beyond traditional alcohol codes to speak to an ever-widening audience can enhance their shareability among an otherwise untapped audience. Bringing the bar experience to the home with signature rituals and other occasions like online tastings and mixology classes presents new experiences to consumers who are interested in healthier concepts that celebrate relaxing over partying.
About Phil Hwang
Brands with purpose, innovations that solve real problems and storytelling that drives action, inspires Hwang’s passion for strategy. For over 15 years, Hwang has helped brands and businesses digitally transform. He was previously positioned at J&J Ethicon in China, Herbalife and Watsons, creating brand platforms for companies such as Accor and SHV China and leading innovation for AB-InBev, Mondelez, and General Mills. He currently leads brand platform creation, new product innovations, and content marketing projects for Australia and APAC at SGK.
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