How technology is transforming the drinks trade
From minimalist, simplified home-brewing solutions attempting to shift millennial excitement from the micro to the nano scale, all the way up to Pernod Ricard’s prototype of a web-connected spirits library in the shape of its ambitious – if yet to be commercially available – project Gutenberg, technology is rising as the alcoholic drinks’ industry’s geeky, auspicious, although still slightly awkward, drinking buddy.
On principle, and on the surface, that’s nothing new. And this ever evolving relationship has always been structured around a narrative of disruption.
Screwcap closures derailing cork’s seemingly unquestionable dominance, bag-in-box packaging formats revolutionising traditionalist notions driving occasions and positioning, advancements in de-alcoholisation processes radically altering abv content – technological input has indeed had a profound effect on the industry.
But while such developments have historically been focused on innovations within the more pedestrian realms of production, maturation and packaging -developments that even on a prosaic level sometimes faced an uphill battle due to the industry’s inherent conservatism – the ongoing hyper connectivity revolution shifts the focus towards the end consumer.
Experimental approaches to personalisation, convenience, crowdfunded ideas and reviews and evolving drinking patterns explored through the prisms – and cameras – of ubiquitous smartphones and online communities are finally reaching escape velocity and this wave of technology has the potential of having the most intoxicating effects for the industry in decades.
That techno-brew of devices, apps, alcohol focused social media and gimmicks will not, obviously, translate into a series of uninterrupted success stories. Affordability, practicality and an ‘open source’ approach – to borrow a term from the software industry- will be key.
PicoBrew’s embrace of open experimentation across hundreds of craft beer recipes versus Heineken’s Sub , an aesthetically pleasing but ultimately overpriced and non-customisable beer dispenser, are hence both cases in point – if for diametrically opposite reasons.
With the off-trade gaining ever more prominence across hyper-connected western markets and robotics, data exchange and the internet of things entering everyday lives, the alcoholic drinks industry will start reflecting the new reality.
As for pop culture references and the zeitgeist pointing to a certain direction? If Broadway Empire and Mad Men ushered in the latest golden era for bourbon , Old Fashioned cocktails and Prohibition chic, perhaps one of the most successful TV shows of 2016 could provide clues as to the role of technology in the general public’s – and drinker’s – imagination. It is called Westworld. The future begins now.
A robotic mixologist or an ‘at-home cocktail machine’ using capsules and combining spirits and mixers to make cocktails on demand will be coming to markets next year and has just received investment for an undisclosed sum by Beam Suntory.
Carlsberg Beer Button
Working with five major retailers, once the ‘beer button’ has been set up, it integrates with a consumers’ online shopping account via an app. When the button is pressed, the product is automatically added to their basket via the smartphone app.
For further insight, please contact Spiros Malandrakis, alcoholic drinks analyst at Euromonitor International, on email@example.com