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Think Insights: Spirits must target daytime eating and drinking

Published:  25 March, 2021

Making the most of daytime, food-friendly occasions will be key to transferring sales from “highly engaged” yet usually evening-focused spirits consumers as the on-trade reopens, CGA has said.

Spirits are going to be hugely important to the sales mix as venues head into re-opening over the coming weeks and months. This message, from on-trade analysts CGA during the opening session of Harpers’ Think Insights event on 24 March, showed that a total of 17.8m GB consumers drank spirits when out in the on-trade in August 2020. That’s the equivalent of 37% of the adult population. However, a change in approach is needed to translate these spirits sales to mid-tempo, food-friendly occasions which will continue to dominate post-lockdown, with operators advised to major on food pairings such as cocktails with starters or main meals.

“There has been a profound shift in the pub and restaurant area of the market where people are not just visiting for food or drink, but both,” Phil Montgomery, client director for drinks at CGA, said. “Of course, some of that was driven by restrictions and the rule of drinks with a substantial meal, but it seems really clear that the direction of travel, at least initially, is going to be about that food offer.”

During the session, data shared by CGA showed that restaurants are the number one venue consumers are most looking forward to visiting after lockdown (41%), ahead of pubs (23%), coffee shops (15%) and bars (5%).

Having a strong cocktail offer and offers that pair cocktails with meals will also become more important as on-trade visits continue to become more localised, with consumers looking for city-centre levels of quality and choice from their experiences, while also to helping to diversify beyond the traditional placement of wine and beer with food.

“We’ve seen a shifting dynamic towards that pub area of the market, a more food-driven, community, independent feel and away from the bar/nightclub, which is obviously a key area for spirits… It’s important to bridge that gap,” Montgomery said.

According to CGA, 73% of business leaders predict that consumer desire to stay/support local will positively impact their business in 2021.

In order to keep up with demand, draught or pre-batch cocktails are a great “de-skilled solution”, and can drive sales from the get-go.

Confidence in late night operators is returning, more so than following the 2020 lockdowns, Montgomery added. However, more relaxed, food led occasions – with outside areas a bonus – will continue to dominate for some time.

CGA also covered the issue of how “how premium can win from the table”. With ordering apps and table service now becoming a norm, and spirits ranges being rationalised to fit in with restrictions on service, the challenge is how to maintain quality of serve and choice for all types of consumers.

The data shows that “17% are looking to be more careful when they spend, whereas a fifth are also looking to treat themselves. So with these contrasting dynamics, we have to think about how the full spirits range has been made the most of.”

More data from the session, including the off-trade view from Kantar will be available side-by-side in the upcoming April issue of Harpers, to be published both in print and digitally by Easter weekend.