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UK Drinking Trends

The way we consume alcohol in both on and off-trade environments has shifted massively over the last 15 years. What are the driving factors?

Economy Most of us will not accumulate the same material wealth as our parents’ generation, with high costs of living, rent and property prices becoming more prohibitive every year. Following the banking crisis of the late noughties, an era of austerity (and high excise duty) has forced many consumers to drink less. But it’s not all doom and gloom, as we see our customers seeking better value by choosing higher quality beer, wine and spirits. The proliferation of premium gin is prime example: as pubs continue to struggle, at-home drinking occasions have grown, which in turn has driven demand for the vast choice of quality small-batch products we see today. Technology Whether seeking a late-night cocktail, last-minute restaurant booking or wine-pairing recommendation, our audiences have huge resources to draw on to help assist in these serious decisions. These choices can be made on-the-move from the screen of a smartphone, and while big brands look to engage their audiences via social media, there is evidently great scope for independent venues and producers to create a buzz around new, original products and targeted promotions. Fashion Making a fashion statement with your choice of drink has transitioned from the realm of celebrity to the everyday drinking occasion. As the premium end of the market has expanded, it has part-morphed into a lifestyle industry. We see this is in the way marketeers have shifted focus on their products to incorporate an aspirational angle – selling a lifestyle associated with their brand. Celebrity endorsement has also evolved, with the rich and famous now wanting to own their own brands: From rappers to actors to sport stars, the trend is set to continue in an age of celebrity worship. Health Fitness and wellbeing is big business. We now pay a lot more attention to what we imbibe; from alcoholic strength, to calorific content, to additives and artificial ingredients. This has helped shift the minimum standard expected across the industry, including transparency of production methods and provenance of ingredients. What we consume, and the way we consume it has evolved to be part of a bigger experience – food now plays a lead role in our drinking habits. Where previous generations went out with friends of an evening specifically to enjoy a few libations, what we eat is increasingly the focal point of a night out – with our drinks working alongside our choice of food.

What next? In a world of low carbon footprint craft beers, organic quinoa base spirits and high-protein cocktails, I see future drinking trends taking further inspiration from fashion, food and fitness – while retaining a very important ingredient - a sense of fun!

About the author - Oscar Dodd is the Brand Manager at award-winning Bimber Distillery

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