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The Drinks Wholesaler: Drinking cheek by jowl

Published:  22 November, 2016

"Change is the only constant," mused the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, and that has certainly never been more apt than in the current drinking and dining scene. 



"Change is the only constant," mused the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, and that has certainly never been more apt than in the current drinking and dining scene. 

There has been an ongoing breakdown of clearly defined drinking and eating occasions. People graze more, moving from cocktail to craft beer to wine, also sharing smaller plates of food while venue hopping. And all the while they take their cues and recommendations from peers via social media and by immersing themselves in the world through the myriad possibilities provided by their ever-connected phone.

This, in turn, is clearly reflected in the evolving drinks offer in the restaurant and bar world, where a blurring of boundaries continues apace. Hybrid venues - mixing up off-trade and on, serving coffee, wines, beers, spirits, cocktails and quality soft alternatives - continue to open and thrive. And the drinks lists (and retailers' shelves) reflect this, with different drinks categories increasingly being offered cheek-by-jowl as old barriers are broken down.

So far, so much we know. But the big question for the drinks trade is how to best meet and capitalise on this evolving scene. 

The spirits and cocktail-driven, quality-focused bar world is ahead of the game in recognising that a new individuality is necessary in terms of the way that brand owners, on-trade operators and bar staff engage with drinkers today. This sector is clearly leading the way, with innovation and personality to the fore. And it's something that all drinks categories, in this deconstructed world, can take and learn from. 

Such a theme pervades this issue of The Drinks Wholesaler. In this issue we consider - in some depth - the trends driving the cutting edge of the cocktail and spirits world, along with the ways in which consumers - and especially a younger generation of drinkers - are engaging. 

Breathing life into fortified winesBreathing life into fortified wines

On the wine side, in a category that is widely seen to still be lagging behind, we hold up examples of several areas where producers and suppliers are getting this right. These range from the ongoing and exciting transformation of South Africa's hip young industry to the resurgence of two of the most traditional regions going - namely sherry and port. 

Meanwhile our most recent regional Drinks Roadshow, convened in Bristol's inspiring Cosy Club, addresses a related topic, bringing differing quarters of the trade together to debate the benefits of collaboration. Again, one of the key issues identified here was the need for the trade as a whole to come together to better meet the mores and expectations of an evolving and upcoming generation. 

The answers typically revolve around taking a more inclusive approach. But with the proviso - as the recent Diageo report examined in Drinks Wholesaler makes clear - that those brand owners, bar and restaurant operators and staff running the venues, focus on their points of individuality and interest, rather than trying to follow inevitably fickle trends. Which makes for a much more interesting drinks world. And a wholly more engaging trade. 

Andrew Catchpole, Editor

Follow me on Twitter @DrinksWholesale

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Bristol Debate: Pulling together