This monthly summary highlights the most interesting product launches in August, with a focus on the direction the alcoholic drinks industry is taking in terms of innovative developments.
Soda’s hard side
At the end of the day, and following the trajectories of nascent drinking rituals, hard soda was a foreseeable development;
On the one hand, retro, nostalgia-tinged designs cues, archaic labelling and apothecary-inspired fonts and branding alluding to bygone eras of craftsmanship and innocence became the signature calling cards of all things micro and ‘authentic’.
From beer, to cider to spirits, the generational distrust towards corporate offerings, commoditisation and industrial –scale production translated into products positioned antagonistically to those exact concepts. It worked – so much so in fact that major players belatedly and begrudgingly embraced the trend both with fresh launches and through revamping flagship brands. The resulting and on-going debate regarding consumer transparency, craft versus crafty and what really constitutes handmade is a different story but there is little doubt about the overall trajectory of the narrative.
In other words, the past provided the clues defining the industry’s future. Or, as we succinctly put it in a widely circulated piece from late 2012:
‘’Nostalgia resembles a floating, safe-haven currency. The darker the front covers in today’s press, the stronger the allure of concepts, designs and branding alluding to the rose-tinted memories of yesteryear. The alcoholic drinks industry’s inherently cyclical nature, its tradition-steeped narrative and unique aptitude in reflecting shifting societal undercurrents could not but bring such references to the fore.
The signs have undoubtedly been there for a while, true offspring of the Great Recession, if not necessarily relevant to specific brands per se. The “Mad Men effect” proved to fittingly capture the zeitgeist while catapulting sales of bourbon and old-fashioned cocktails across the West. Localisation and the “micro” movements can also be viewed as a nod to much sought-after values of innocence, craftsmanship and heritage – a fact vividly highlighted in many brands’ decidedly old-school logos.‘’
On the other hand, and primarily focusing on the same disillusioned demographic of millenials and Generation X drinkers growing up on high levels of sugar content, flavour sophistication became the second major driver for innovation. From flavoured vodka to flavoured bourbon (or whiskey-based liqueurs) and from flavoured cider to flavoured beer – in its radler, speer or malt-based drink iterations- the generational shift towards sweeter palates came to the fore.
Hard soda- spearheaded by the explosive growth of the only recently launched and aptly named Not Your Father’s Root Beer – is hence the perfect marriage of these two concepts. An unashamed embrace of sweet childhood memories fortified with punchy semantics of Americana. The fact that such products are inviting DIY experimentation through revisiting classic cocktails or irreverently revitalizing innocent favourites like floats will also provide a breath of fresh air against the increasingly more elitist craft beer tsunami.
Coney Island’s Hard Root beer contains 5.8% alcohol and is made with barley, caramel malt and European hops. It undergoes a secondary fermentation with additional sugars and ale yeast that’s filtered to give it a root beer base and Madagascar vanilla is added in the end. Initially available in a small number of US states, distribution will be nationwide soon.