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Global Drinks Forum 2017

Published:  10 October, 2017

Less formal education key in a fast evolving global drinks market as categories and occasions blur for modern consumers.

The potential for further global spirits growth was identified as “huge”, with education key and wine cited as having shown the way, according to Bacardi’s global advocacy director Jacob Briars, opening speaker at the Global Drinks Forum 2017 in Berlin.

Using an unexpected parallel, Briars likened the evolution happening in the spirits world to that of wine and coffee over the past couple of decades, citing a democratisation of the category and increasing consumer knowledge, linked to the trend towards authenticity and provenance.

This, he suggested, has been driven by a new approach to education and a relaxing of traditional occasion, allowing “new ways to drink and new ways to present drinks” as consumers have increasingly been able to participate in the conversation about a brand.

“The wine world over past 20 years has really shown the way - it used to be a sommelier with a confusing list, taking advantage of a consumer that didn’t understand the offer,” said Briars. “But now there is a very different approach, with different expressions of region and variety, and this is happening in the spirits industry.”

“There has been a democratisation of wine, a loosening of the hold of Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers, with young people less interested in being driven by [that style of] education, but more interested in less formal education, and that is the same with spirits.”

Identifying Asia and Africa as “offering huge opportunities for growth”, about which he is “bullish”, Briars also said he was optimistic about traditional markets, where education, coupled with bartenders creativity and passion, is the biggest driver of the industry.

The globalisation of the industry, and ability to exchange information via social media and online platforms, is also allowing both those in the trade and consumers to share knowledge in unprecedented ways, in turn driving expectation, adventurousness and a desire for premium drinks and experiences.

“Innovation, new and exciting products, but also creativity, bartenders sharing information and techniques, means more people have knowledge,” said Briars. “They may be drinking less units, but finding more occasions to drink, and are more prepared to spend when they do.”

Driving global trends

Briars was in tune with other speakers at the Forum, where Tim Simmons, senior analyst and global head of travel retail at IWSR, identified seven key drivers of current global drinking trends, drawing on the tracking of alcohol consumption, sales and trends across 155 markets.

Heading those drivers were: premiumisation; a blurring of categories; the desire for experience; an emphasis on and interest in provenance; and the strong growth of entertaining at home.

“The drinks market is evolving at a faster pace than it ever has in history, consumers are less loyal, switch between brands and there is category blur,” said Simmons.

In addition, Simmons confirmed that even when drinking at home, consumers see the brands they choose as extensions of their personality, with quality, provenance, authenticity and convenience delivering a new cocktail of cues, and health and wellbeing also high in the agenda.

Echoing Briars, Simmons said: “Growth in alcohol is slowing, but change is happening more quickly, people are spending up, willing to pay a bit more for quality products, in bars, retail and for home delivery.”

Furthermore, “healthy living and well being is linked to consumption, ingredients matter, the quality of all products, and convenience is king” for today’s consumer, he added.