This week our Content Director Chris caught up with local suppliers, craft producers and industry experts to get their take on what they think we’ll be drinking in 2021.   

Where do we even start with 2020… A global pandemic, three lockdowns and plenty of tiers! I think we can safely say it was a write-off. However, amidst the closing of bars, restaurants and other hospitality sectors there was a band of Indies set to help us out at home. With the constant impact of Covid-19 the consumer has now evolved, whether that be for the improvement of ones physical and mental health, or simply to bring the party home to them. I was personally just missing a “ball” if I am being completely honest.

At the centre of this hospitality (R)evolution was the drinks industry. Health drinks gained popularity with people fermenting kefir or kombucha at home. And for those who like something a little stronger, wine subscriptions and the infamous cocktail delivery services became the norm.

A Growth in Low & No

Philip Pentone Robinson is a consultant to the food and beverage industry and Founder & CEO at The Pentone Family. As an alcoholic beverage manufacturer, I was interested to find out his thoughts on the future of non-alcoholic spirits.

“The future of drinking alcohol conversely rests in the rising popularity of the non-alcoholic spirits space. Rather than a contradiction in terms, these categories are in fact complementary and can sit side by side. They should be friends at and behind the bar.”

With 20% of drinking age adults in the U.K. and almost 25% of Gen Z’s choosing to avoid alcohol, the impact on the industry has been noticeable. “Britain’s craft distilling boom over the last decade – predominantly fuelled by gin and beer – has been the most recent significant trends in our long-standing love affair with booze. It’s also been one of the key drivers behind the growth in non-alcoholic spirits. Botanical drinks now open unlimited range possibilities to the palate and for products, with non-alcoholic ‘spirits’ providing a solution for consumers who either don’t drink alcohol or who want an occasional alternative, cutting back on units and calories, less so on flavour and enjoying the act of drinking.

So, should we just expect to see regular no & low spirits like gin & vodka, or will there be more choice available for the consumers this year? “With clever use of colouring and flavourings, dark spirits have been replicated to provide a non-alcoholic alternative and supermarkets have segmented the way with significantly growing ‘low and no’ spaces on store shelves. Given the more favourable markup of such drinks in comparison to the duties faced by more traditional alcoholic drinks, we can only expect this area to grow in the off-trade. Given the somewhat saturated white spirits market, a continued steady rise in distillers producing their own non-alcoholic spirits can be expected this year as a way to stand out from the crowd. Where Sipsmith led the way for the craft spirits industry, Seedlip similarly helped pioneer in the non-alcoholic spirits space.”

Whilst many are conscious of their alcohol consumption during the early months of the year, will we see more people ordering traditional ABV spirits when the hospitality industry reopens? “When our hard-hit hospitality industry is allowed to reopen, we can expect to see an increasing number of ‘low and no’ brands to be seen in bars and restaurants. Pre-pandemic, more and more people were cutting back on alcohol to be healthier and cut calories. The drinking less but better trend, upgrading your spirit, can be expected to continue long term. Our current offering in this niche can be found in our lower ABV botanical spirits: Pentone Ocean Storm and Pentone Red Storm. These session strength spirits boast the best of both worlds – naturally botanically coloured, no added sugar, fewer calories and a lower alcohol content.”


Drinks That Do More

We’ve seen a rise in the number of commercially produced drinks with benefits over the past few years. You can find gut-friendly kombucha on most supermarket shelves, and spirits like Collagin (a full-strength gin that contains your daily dose of beautifying collagen) have gained in popularity. We don’t just want to drink to quench our thirst, we want to feel the benefits too!

More than two-thirds of adults with mental health problems reported that their symptoms were worse during lockdown. As a direct consequence of the pandemic and all that follows, many people without previous experience of mental health problems have experienced poor mental health during lockdown and have seen their wellbeing decline. So if there was ever a time (and a need) for CBD, it’s now!

Potential benefits from using CBD products include a reduction in anxiety and depression and even pain relief and it’s no surprise to find that sales of CBD products are on the rise more so now than ever before. Although CBD drinks aren’t as well known, there is a lot of interest in consumers wanting to try them. I spoke with Lux Aurelie – founder of LivLate Edibles – to discover more about her products of CBD in tea form and how this can benefit the consumer.

“The combination of a lush relaxing infusion combined with the entourage effect of the hemp flower allows the consumer to take that much-needed pause and conscious step back that will allow them to settle. I think tea is the ideal way to consume hemp/cannabis in liquid form as there is less processing done to the plant and you are in more control of how it’s brewed.”

CBD also carried other health benefits, for example, it’s three times as potent in omega 3-9’s than cod liver oil. However, some processes will remove many of the important cannabinoids that are what help you feel the true benefit of CBD. “Personally I am very cautious of brands claiming to use CBD in liquids. You need high-quality, water-soluble concentrates for this to be beneficial. I often find big companies use the acronym CBD as a buzzword, so I urge people to always check for a dosage on the bottle either in % or mg to make sure they are not just paying for a big brand’s marketing.  A dose that is beneficial is between 10 to 20mg per day, but you should always speak to a medical professional before consuming CBD to ensure the product is right for you.”


At Home Cocktails

We all love a Cocky-T in Locky-D don’t we?

2020 saw the birth of the cocktail delivery services, and I’m pretty sure they saved many a birthday, special occasion and, well, the weekend! I spoke to James & Drew from The Boozy Pantry – a Liverpool-based duo who started their cocktail delivery business during the first lockdown and are now shipping nationwide. They have partnered with online brand Hunsnet, even hosting online cocktail masterclasses for one of their infamous (virtual) lock-ins. So why are premix cocktails a benefit and trend in this current economy?

“With the bar and restaurants trade sadly closed throughout the majority of 2020 and the start of 2021, people still want the quality cocktails they have on their big nights out. We are making it possible to have them, but in the comfort of your PJs and on your couch! Buying all the spirits, mixers, and garnishes to make them Instagram-worthy can be really expensive, which is why premix cocktails are a cheaper and a much tastier alternative. We can bring that premium cocktail experience to your front door.”

Delivering cocktails wasn’t the original plan for James and Drew. “Dreams of our own bar were sadly dashed by the events of 2020, so a cocktail delivery service seemed far less risk given the circumstances.  We set up The Boozy Pantry because we always have a drinks cabinet full of different spirits, liqueurs, and mixers to make our own cocktails at home.  We both (in normal circumstances) love entertaining and being social with our friends, whilst making cocktails for everyone, and perfecting our recipes.”

Whilst the premixed drink trend makes perfect sense in lockdown, do James and Drew see this continuing to grow once lockdown ends? “2020 has made a lot of people realise the value in seeing friends, family, and loved ones. As we slowly return to the new normal, quality premix drinks straight to your door takes the true hassle out of having to make your own whilst spending quality time with friends and family. Making cocktails at home can be tricky – and expensive – so this is a perfect solution that doesn’t break the bank. For us, it’s definitely brought a sense of ‘normality’ in these uncertain times. Where we can’t go on a night out, we bring the night out to us!


What About Pubs?

Finally, I had the absolute pleasure of talking to Nick Romano – Business Development Executive for Pernod Ricard UK. Nick was a fantastic source and gave some brilliant insight into the trends that his company is seeing start for 2021.

“Spritz serves are becoming an increasingly popular trend within our market. In line with the Low and No trend figures, the Spritz cocktail is a popular choice with 2 in 5 cocktail consumers claiming they frequently drink spritz serves. The Gin Spritz (non-flavoured) is the #1 preferred spritz serve with Aperol Spritz coming in now at #2 and a White Wine Spritz in #3 according to our research”

With more focus on the low and no category than ever before, can we still expect to see innovation in the traditional cocktail category? “A third of cocktail consumers have now seen draught cocktails in the market, with nearly 3/4 of these having purchased one. Those who have tried draught cocktails before claimed they were very likely to repurchase. The biggest opportunity for this kind of product obviously lies in pubs, as they account for almost 40% of the total GB market, making them the biggest sector. As cocktails have been traditionally under-indexed in Pubs due to lack of availability and staff training, draught cocktails provide an innovative solution to both these issues.”

So does Nick see us drinking more at home than we did before, or will we all be back in the pub as soon as those doors open? “Something else that may be worth mentioning is the over-index of wine club subscriptions, with many companies closing new registrations due to high demand. At home beer brewing kits are also becoming increasingly popular with consumers starting to experiment more and expand their drinking habits.”

So it seems that 2021 will be the year of balance for us all. And no, I don’t mean a drink in each hand, but if you’re offering… Go on then!