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Hacking Alcohol; A Cocktail of Disruption

Disruptive or –accommodative- technologies will reshape product offerings, challenge drinking rituals, accelerate and pedestrianize or add layers of complexity to brewing and maturation techniques, revolutionise promotional campaigns, expand distribution and accessibility options and reassess reviewing methods. Niche, exploratory experimentation will cross into the mainstream.

Apps embracing increasing levels of personalisation and crowd-funded or ever more sophisticated algorithmic recommendations, oak infusion contraptions , customisable, automated home brewing appliances structured around social network features , Virtual Reality –based, Video Game focused and social media activated advertising and promotional campaigns or even direct to consumer deliveries via drones will provide technologically intoxicating opportunities.

The ever illusive millennial demographic is after all, firmly in the industry’s cross hairs.

Generational shifts: From millions of Boomers to booming Millenials

As the inebriated cohorts of boomers are asking for the tab bill and generation X is nursing their final round in the corner, generation Y will elbow their way to the front of the bar.

They are deal seekers, brand promiscuous, focused on pre-store on-line content and demand relevant and engaging stories. They will seek immersive experiences, question established definitional taboos and category fault lines, opt for resonant narratives and bespoke offerings while suffering from ever shorter attention spans.

While they do share a degree of common attributes, they are by no means uniform. Stratification initiatives will hone the focus on older or younger millennials at the same time that Drinks brands will increasingly turn into content providers in order to harness rapidly evolving trends and secure emotive if fleeting following. Blurbs will replace self-indulgent, long winded creatives.

Healthy – In moderation

From the revision of health guidelines to the introduction of punitive taxation and from advertising restrictions to the rise of abstinence as a lifestyle choice, anti –alcohol rhetoric will grow even more loud and inflammatory.

Lower abv and non-alcoholic product lines and extensions will form the industry’s first line of defence but calorie labelling and nutritional information initiatives will deflect the neo-prohibitionary chorus too- if only in the short term.

Remembering that the life cycle of alcoholic products positioned purely within the ‘health and wellness’ trend has historically tended to be shorter than a millenial’s attention span, implementation and positioning will be key; A positive approach underscoring added benefits and attributes instead of a patronising spin attempting to reductively mimic alcoholic varietals is essential. Occasions and a respectful acknowledgement of the industry’s ultimately hedonistic and indulgence orientated nature will deflect the danger of health fatigue fuelling a backlash.

Cannabis Rising; Symbiotic, competitive or a controversial hybrid?

With recreational and medicinal use decriminalised in a rising number of US states and Canada, episodic or regular consumption will rise or at the very least enter the mass market as the stigma subsides.

The (multi) billion dollar question(s)?  Is there a direct or inverse correlation between cannabinoids and alcohol, how will be the tiers of distribution and channels involved be optimised and what are the legislative directives that the alcohol industry will inevitably provide to a cannabis industry still taking its first tentative baby steps. The substitutions versus complementary use argument will become a key research area of focus.

In the meantime, hybrids and cross pollination initiatives ranging from cannabis flavourings to infusions or fortification experiments  will open the floodgates for new avenues of innovation – and legal challenges- to flourish.

Macroeconomic hangovers and debunking the linear growth mantra

As cognac hit the Great Chinese Wall of austerity, major export driven categories were amongst the first casualties of the Ukranian conflict engulfing Eastern Europe and inflationary pressures or currency volatility derailed the seemingly impervious growth narrative across Latin American as well as commodity producing African markets, a cautionary tale emerges;

Emerging market growth is neither infinite nor is it linear. Regional diversification is imperative as new black swan events are already hatching on the horizon.

Craft alcohol fatigue

Peak craft is now upon us. While the trend itself does still hold huge momentum and is finally reaching escape velocity, the much disputed, debated and overused term will increasingly become ever more dubious.

Minimal intervention production techniques, natural and artisanal credentials, genuine provenance characteristics, localisation and single estate offerings will provide much needed clarity at the same time that opportunistic lawsuits against ‘crafty’ offerings will underscore definitional shortcomings.

From micro-breweries to boutique distillers and from off-trade outlets to cocktail parlours, a backlash against pretentious and superfluous positioning and a shift from moustachioed mixology to  a sophisticated yet more modest and grounded approach to drinking will hit western trend setting metropolitan areas. As the plethora of speakeasies fade away, new forms of approachable and improved neighbourhood dives will steal the limelight.

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