Few events in recent years have had a greater impact on alcohol industry trends than the Covid-19 pandemic. The world of 2019 now feels like a lifetime ago. Much has changed, with new trends emerging as more people remain sheltered at home. At the same time, technologies that seemed faraway have suddenly advanced forwards, changing forever the ways that we conduct business.
So where do things stand in the industry? How will 2021 likely unfold, as we remain stuck in this slowly unwinding pandemic? For a deep dive into this topic, we recently spoke with Scott Moore, Southern Glazer’s SVP National Accounts Off Premise.
Beverage Wholesaler: What trends have emerged from the pandemic?
Scott Moore: The big brands are winning. There’s a huge amount of consumers going back to what they knew and trusted for years. And because big brands were winners, private label was not. That’s dropping shares, month by month.
The tequila category we saw grow 51% in ultra and super-premium.
With craft in general, I think it’s going to become more and more segmented within the categories. Consumers are becoming experts within tequila or bourbon, or American whiskey in general. People are becoming experts in things like mash bills, Bottled in Bond, age statements. Products that tap into those areas are really going to rise to the top. All those smaller details of craft spirits are having a renaissance.
BW: Returning to tequila, why did the category explode in 2020?
SM: The tequila trend was already in place before Covid, of course, but then it was jumpstarted to another level by Covid. We see nothing but positive growth moving forwards. Tequila is still a couple years behind whiskey in all of this. And there’s a lot of really great tequilas out there to be explored.
The timing also had a lot to do with it. Cinco de Mayo was the first holiday that people celebrated during the pandemic, and people made the most of it. And the pandemic has set off a craze around mixology at home.
Mixology has gotten a lot of attention from retailers. They get great movement on tequila, and then they ask us what else can consumers buy for making cocktails? What kind of glassware and shakers are available for purchase?
BW: Cocktails at home spiked last year, for obvious reasons.
SM: It makes sense. The chef-at-home movement that we’ve also seen, beverage mixology ties right into that.
And then there is the whole RTD craze. People enjoy their own cocktails at home, the mixology piece, but sometimes you just want to grab and go. Spirits and wine jumped into this RTD trend in a big way.
We see more retailers carving out room in their cold box for RTDs. That’s going to be a real hotbed in 2021. Though it’s going to be tough for retailers to find the space. It’s a real conundrum. There’s going to be winners and losers.
BW: Who will be the winners in RTDs?
SM: Pay attention to the on-premise. Watch what are the hot drinks there, and those will be the popular RTDs. There’s also a grab-and-go element on-premise, too. Any RTDs that can sell on-premise will likely also do well at retail.
BW: Assumedly retailers will make room for RTDs by trimming craft beer?
SM: Craft beer had some really good sales during Covid, but there are a lot of SKUs. Moving forwards, I could see that craft beer will suffer.
I also see this as part of the deepening of the hard seltzer category. There are so many better options now, non-malt based, that just taste better.
BW: How will American whiskey perform in 2021?
SM: It’s had a heck of a run, and we only see that deepening. As I mentioned earlier, we see the aficionados getting more and more in depth with their knowledge. That’s why we expect more products that highlight their mash bills, grain makeups, aging, Bottled in Bond, etcetera. Each one of those brands and portfolios enriches themselves by becoming more precise.
Anotger thing that happened during Covid was that customers realized how these spirits are an affordable luxury.
BW: Any other big trends you see for 2021?
SM: Organic has been big throughout the whole retail store.
Our planner and programming pieces are big on minorities and women in 2021. Brands like 21 Seeds, we see things like that appealing to shoppers. The passion behind brands like 21 Seeds, it’s infectious.
Ecommerce obviously had increased relevance in 2020. Retailers saw a big surge in ecommerce last year. Looking at it from a beverage alcohol perspective, we’re now four years ahead of where we predicted we would be. We started just one or two years ago to have dedicated people for ecommerce.
Before Covid, ecommerce wasn’t necessary. Now it’s a full-fledged business in its own. The virtual shelf can be customized to meet your online buyer better. There’s lots of options for retailers.
I also think that healthy, low-cal alcohol offerings will remain trendy.