It’s that time of year again where we eschew tradition, ignore the plethora of trend predictions for next year, and skip right on to 2024. With 2023 nearly upon us – and set to be a bit rubbish anyway – we’re instead looking ahead 12 months to ask what will happen tomorrow, that brands need to plan for today.
Size is everything
The trend for small formats (because we’re all very poor) and more eco-friendly formats (because we all fear spontaneously combusting during another roasting summer) have horribly collided. Now the top-sellers for drinks retailers are huge jeroboams of own-brand or value spirits, or else triple-shot sized ‘break glass in an emergency’ mini bottles. Which are also perfect for when you get invited to a party but don’t want to spend a wedge on a bottle you’ve have to leave there out of politeness. Want something of a more normal size? After the paper bottle was once and for all proved to be as structurally sound as a loo roll you’ve accidentally dropped down the bog, it’s a 750ml pouch for you.
Move over moderation, make mine a stiff one
There ain’t no going back; we now live in the world of the £8 pint. So, what really in that context, can you expect from a cocktail currently priced, on average, just a few pounds higher? When it comes to cocktail trends, we expect consumers be looking for some bang for their buck. Because in 2024, when the price of a cocktail looks set to have soared to twice the hourly rate for minimum wage, when we’re drinking, we’re really drinking. Booze-heavy cocktails from the Martini, to the Negroni, the Old Fashioned et al, will dominate sales. While the Martini is already on a good run when it comes to renewed attention from bartenders, expect new riffs on other alcohol-dominant serves to emerge.
Drink your food
Eat up. Or should that be drink up? We all like to experiment eh? We’re all trysumers now, happy to give anything a go, right? Okay then, what about food-inspired boozy RTDs? Bars such as NYC’s Double Chicken Please have been working to capture the full flavour of foods such as cold pizza, cold Japanese noodles, French toast, and key lime pie in a cocktail. Now, fat washing has been a thing for some time now, and we’ve all met a bartender that really wants you to try their roast beef, bacon or cheddar vodka. But in 2024, with food bills soaring, RTD makers will cut out the middle man, giving consumers a drinkable meal and a delicious cocktail in one. Vodka-laced Black Forest cocktail? Yes please.
In the battle of non alc, RTDs win out over ‘spirits’
While the need – and the demand – for non-alc ‘spirits’ is beyond question at this point, the market is still kind of stalling. Suffering from a few bad apples during early iterations, some consumers have sipped sub-standard products and decided the entire category isn’t for them. And once that’s happened, without any concerted sampling efforts being carried out by brands, it’s proved hard to get them back in. Meanwhile, others still simply can’t compute that something with zero booze in it should in many cases cost more than full-strength; sterilization, stabilisation and shelf-life issues just aren’t sexy talking points for brands to back-up their RRPs with.
And so it looks as though the RTD is the bastion of hope for this category to do what its promised to do, and go mainstream. First emerging during the pandemic, these portable, affordable, and pre-mixed (solving widespread consumer confusion on how to mix many of these ‘spirits’) recruitment tools will receive renewed attention in 2024, with a renewed flurry of new flavours and base products.
Canned wine spritzers
Now that we can all agree the hard seltzer is dead – at least on UK shores – there’s a gap in the market for a low calorie, low ABV, fizzy light drink for Gen Z’s to Instagram post-yoga sesh or on the beach. The wine spritzer serve has been around for eons, yet it’s unlikely younger consumers will have tried it. But as TikTok trends bring a new audience to wine, and following years of abuse by brands, consumers have accepted the term spritz can mean absolutely anything vaguely fizzy and refreshing, the RTD wine spritzer looks set to have its moment. As well as proving an easy, approachable access point to the wine category, the fact that cans are easier to recycle than glass is also a draw for these eco-concerned LDA consumers.
Functional health aids
The blanket desire to be healthy has evolved. Consumers are now looking for specific health claims from the products that they choose, selectively targeting anything from sleep aids, to digestive health, female health issues, and stress relief. This shift has already begun: according to Waitrose, sales of ginger shot drinks, a source of antioxidants and immune- and gut-boosting ingredients, were up 24% last year; whey, previously a protein powder ingredient, now a drinkable workout recovery aid is on the rise; and magnesium, said to help relieve tiredness, is also on the up. For 2024, more sophisticated flavours and a marked packaging shift (from purely functional to aspirational) will propel sales of new riffs on prebiotics, probiotics, and other concentrated doses of health and stress-relieving ingredients.
Look, if we can heave meatless meat, then we can certainly have beanless coffee. It’s not that hard to understand, though it is hard to make it sound sexy. Though the java market at large has marketed itself on exotic, differentiated bean varieties and their specific growing region ‘terroirs’ for some time, climate change is now forcing a rethink. Currently led by experimentation by a few leading brands, coffee without the actual coffee, is now becoming a thing and will be pushed further by brand owners in 2024, as technology improves and more brands join the fray. But will consumers embrace it? As taste profiles and the associated caffeine kick we look to coffee for are able to be more closely replicated, expect more brands to at least try to win consumers over.
THC and CBD bite the dust
From cloudy non-alc spirits that taste of CBD oil, to wellness packaged RTDs in calming pastel fonts and that joined-up motel-like font… that tastes like raw CBD oil… it’s fair to say there’s been some quality issues when it comes to this fledgling category. If you’ve not tried it, CBD oil tastes like butts; we’ll leave you to decide what kind. The truth is, these enhanced drinks have never really been able to pin point, market to, and convince consumers of the exact occasion or moment they’re really for, and therefore haven’t been able to truly become a part of consumer’s repertoires. Is a fizzy drink what you want before bed? No. Is a THC-enhanced Espresso Martini really a good idea anyway? We’d argue, for the sake of the imbiber’s sanity, also no. 2024 will be the year we finally wave them cheerio. Off you pop.
Thought it was impressive when British Airways created a alcohol menu designed especially to be enhanced by the effects of altitude? So did we. Also, did you like it when Ardbeg began firing its Scotch up into space? Its attempts to study the effects of zero gravity on the aging of its liquid were fun, with the conditions ultimately said to have imparted antiseptic smoke, rubber and smoked fish aromas. Yummy. Well, now that space tourism is fast approaching being a thing – give it 20 years – drinks makers are falling over themselves to be the drink you want to take with you on your voyage. Maison Mumm has already figured out how to figure out how to package its champagne to make it space compliant, because pressurized fizz housed in glass just ain’t a good idea.
Working with aeronautics-focused design firm SPADE, it took four years to perfect the stainless steel bottle for Cordon Rouge Stellar, with the brand claiming it is poised to become “the first champagne that can be tasted in space and that will embark on future human space flights”. Now, in 2024 other brands have joined the new gold rush to be the libation of choice for those plucky (read as, rich af) tourists who complain about rainy weather in the Maldives, but think that being strapped to a large fuel tank and fired into the stratosphere is a perfectly reasonable idea. Space race drinks? They’re the new NFTs. Bottoms up.
Interested in finding out more about what this might mean for you and your business?
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