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What are people drinking in 2021?

UK Hospitality

2020 was tough. We were locked in and denied trips to bars, restaurants and many other hospitality venues. With 2021 on the go, many of us are looking forward to a return to some form of normality.

But when we do get back into the world of on-premise drinking, it will be with drinking habits that have been changed over the last year of the pandemic.

Let’s take a look at what drinking trends 2021 is going to see continue…

Buying alcohol online will increase

Over recent years more and more of purchasing has been made online. But alcoholic sales steadily bucked that trend. This might be due to complex shipping laws, or even an apparent loyalty to local liquor stores. Whatever the reason, buying alcohol online was never a widespread trend in the same way other products have been.

However, the changes that the pandemic has induced include the sphere of alcohol sales, which have moved online. The alcohol e-commerce market is likely to only increase in 2021, following an 80 percent value growth in 2019-2020. This is compared to 19 percent in 2019.

It’s true that rates of alcohol e-commerce will probably drop somewhat this year as people return to hospitality venues for their drinking. But it seems that the habit of buying online won’t return to its previous low levels. People have experienced the ease and efficacy with which they can get their preferred drinks delivered, and the phenomenon is here to stay. As a venue, this may mean that it’s time to consider online selling options to keep up with the demand.

The cocktails we see in bars and venues will shift

Cocktail bars are in the trickiest situation to return to profitability in 2021. The need for more streamlined operations will likely equate to fewer staff at bars, and a lot of cocktail bars sport lengthy menus and labour-intensive proprietary ingredients that don’t age well. This means that it will remain much harder for cocktail bars to remain profitable in the return to normal. 

What we may see is a reliance on spirit-forward classics at cocktail bars. These are simpler to prepare and offer an option that doesn’t rely too heavily on perishable garnishes and juices.

One thing that cocktail bar owners should be aware of is the rise of home bartending. People have spent a year playing cocktail waiter in the back gardens and getting cocktails delivered to their doorstep. This makes for a more cocktail-savvy audience that might need some tweaks to the ole’ classics to keep them interested. Alternatively, bars might also like to look into delivery options whereby they can deliver their cocktails to customer’s doors. 

To-go cocktails will keep venues selling

In many places, bars and restaurants have been able to sell cocktails to-go, acting as off-premise alcohol retailers. To a die-hard mixologist this trend may seem abhorrent, but the experiment has been a lifeline for businesses and cocktail lovers in these difficult times. It is probable that to-go cocktails will remain a profitable product when bars are opened up again, especially if the rumours are true that pubs may open but without alcohol.

Health will be a priority for people

One thing that the pandemic has caused is a heightened public awareness of personal health. This has somewhat translated into the realm of alcoholic beverages. Drinking at home gives you a bit more time to decide what you’ll have; and this has resulted in higher consumption of alcohol-free products. This health awareness has also sparked brands to increasingly market even their alcoholic drinks as beneficial to health. 

This may seem laughable; alcohol is hardly a healthy product. But we have seen the marketing of probiotic hard kombucha and hard seltzers rich in antioxidant vitamin C. Or else brands might choose to focus on what their drink actually lacks – like gluten-free vodkas, for example. 

New no and low drinks may be more popular

There’s no denying that the Great British public will be back in pubs as soon as they open, however the way they consume drinks may have changed. Venues should start to look at no and low options that have been very popular during the pandemic.

This would likely be a successful course of action in 2020 and beyond especially when it comes to looking at new drinks like seltzers. In a pre-pandemic world, hard seltzers and 0% alcohol drinks were only really consumed as off-premise drinks, but in 2020 they really boomed and will likely make their way into bars and venues in 2021.

People have been purchasing no and low alcohol drinks in supermarkets and drinking them at home, as well as in parks and socially-distanced spaces. A locked-down population generated massive sales increases in these products. 

This is especially true when it comes to both soft and hard seltzers – something that clever hospitality venues will take note of. When we are gifted with reopened bars and restaurants, there will be a large proportion of returning customers who have developed a taste for these previously side-lined beverages that offer a lower percentage of alcohol than most other drinks.

March 11, 2021

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