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‘Instagrammable’ serves key for UK bars

The UK on-trade needs to offer ‘Instagrammable’ serves, immersive and authentic experiences to capture the attention of consumers who are today drinking less, but choosing to spend more, according to this year’s William Grant & Sons market report.

Picture perfect. Oriole’s La Capilla is named after an ancient bar in Mexican city of Tequila – the heartland of blue agave. Its made from a blend of Olmeca Altos Blanco Tequila, zesty ricotta, lemon, agave wine and evening primrose.

William Grant & Sons released its annual market report last week which details consumer behaviour and trends currently affecting the drinks industry. Among its findings, the report noted increasing demand for authentic, immersive experiences and ‘Instagrammable’ cocktails highlighted as key to winning over consumers.

‘Healthonism’, the balance between a healthy lifestyle and hedonism, was another consumer trend highlighted in the report, with healthy living gradually impacting the drinks industry.

This can be seen in the type of ingredients being used, long-term decline in alcohol consumption in the UK. However this premium spirits are in growth, highlighting the trend for drinking less, but better.

Overall, sales of premium spirits are now worth £1.1bn, up 18.6% on the previous financial year, equating to 39% of total spirits growth in the UK.

Much of this consumption is being driven by “rich experiences, authenticity and satisfying the consumer need of discernment, treat and social status”, according to William Grant & Sons.

“Trading up to more premium choices can be seen across all aspects of the consumer journey, and while consumers may not be going out as often, when they do, they are looking for more memorable experiences”, the report read.

To deliver this, brands are using virtual reality technology to create an immersive brand world and storytelling, particularly within the realm of cocktails, to provide consumers with an experience that they can share and exchange for social currency.

“With a new product launch almost every week, it is brands who engage in authentic storytelling with the bartending community that win at outlet”, read the report, which noted The Balvenie’s recent partnership with two-Michelin-star chef Michel Roux Jr, to launch The Craftsmen’s Dinner, a series of six short films celebrating excellent craftsmanship in the UK.

Within the world of cocktails, London’s Oriole cocktail bar is known both for its ‘Instagrammable’ serves and storytelling slant with a cocktail list presented on cigarette cards that feature a picture and short ‘story’ explaining the origins of each serve.

The Umckaloabo for example, which comprises a blend of Mount Gay Black Barrel rum, amaro, carob moka, centerbe and geranium ice cream, is inspired by the struggle of the Umckaloabo, or African Geranium, which “endures the fierce summer sun of day and the sudden chill of night”, in Zululand, South Africa.

Speaking to the drinks business earlier this year, Edmund Weil, founder of the bar, commented on the rising importance of ‘Instagrammable’ cocktails,

“The interesting thing about millennials is that they value experiences, whereas maybe 10 years ago it was more about the car or the watch,” he said. “People generally value their experiences more now as it gives them more status and cachet. For better or worse, what you experience is a status symbol. The flip side of that is the selfie culture.”

In short, consumers aren’t just on the hunt for a good cocktail in a comfortable bar, but an experience that they can capture and share, in the process building their identity and social standing.

“Consumers are continuously filtering through the noise and uncertainty of everyday life, and with more brands and experiences available to them ‘on demand’, it is no surprise that consumers are appraising their choices with more scrutiny than ever before”, adds Gary Keogh, marketing Director of William Grant & Sons UK.

Michel Roux Jr
Michel Roux Jr teamed up with The Balvenie earlier this year to host a series of dinners celebrating UK craftsmen

“From the war on sugar, to the rise of abstinence or monitored intake as a lifestyle choice, we are also seeing the health rhetoric dial up in 2016 and brands are responding in force.

“As the expectation of brands reaches a new level, it is those who are able to communicate with real authenticity and involve the consumer in a unique, personalised brand experience that will win in the category.”

In the on-trade, premium spirits are grew 19.7% in value sales in 2015/6, ahead of mainstream spirits value sales which grew by 6.3%. This, the report said, was evidence of consumers choosing to trade up within the on-trade.

In the off-trade, the spirits secror reported value growth of +2.6%, ahead of both wine and beer, with volumes growing by 2.7%. The largest categories within the spirits sector continue to be blended whisky and vodka, accounting for almost half of value sales, which the fastest-growing categories within spirits are flavoured/spiced rum (+13.1%) and gin (+9.9%). Premium spirits account for £308.4m in the off-trade, up +15.8% and growing ahead of the total market.

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