The leaves are falling and temperatures are dropping; a sign this year is rapidly coming to a close. States emerged out of their quarantine - we were able to take off our masks, then had to put them on again. Stores reopened only to close a short time later, and some schools are still in the dark about how to safely welcome kids back.
Ah, 2021. A *slightly* better year than 2020.
Bars and restaurants were no stranger to this perpetual limbo, as many owners were left to decide for their own whether to open, close, require vaccinations, and on and on. Can you believe it’s been nearly two years since the pandemic began? With most bars and restaurants now reopening their doors, however, slowly but surely things are getting back to normal. Many of the trends we predicted for 2021 still ring true and don’t show any signs of changing. Things like to-go cocktails, for example, are a mainstay for the near future - here in Illinois, Governor Pritzker has made them legal until 2024. Hopefully by then COVID-19 will be long behind us. Just looking at the upcoming months though, what trends will continue into 2022? As with many things nowadays, it’s hard to predict, but here are a few we see in our Backbar crystal ball.
All in on zero-proof
More mindful drinking, a trend that started long before the pandemic began, will continue to gain traction through the new year. Millennials and Gen Z'ers are fueling this trend - more aware of the effects that alcohol can have on their mental and physical health, young adults are seeking other alternatives. Bon Appetit reported in 2019 that no and low alcohol beverages could grow by a whopping 32% by 2022. COVID only fueled the trend further, as many who might have drank more excessively during this time emerged from America’s lockdown looking to make a change.
As such, the culture around cocktails is rapidly changing the landscape for bars and restaurants, becoming more and more inclusive to the sober crowd. Providing non-alcoholic selections is becoming a standard, even a necessity for venues that want to cater to a larger consumer base. At Maos in London, for exxmaple, these no-alcohol concoctions almost become dishes themselves - with exciting and complex offerings like fermented Korean green plums with shiso and a red berry juice infused with Szechuan pepper, forward-thinking restaurants like Maos push the envelope of just what a dry drink looks like.
Sicilian lychees with myrtle branch and Japanese quince is just one of the
innovative non-alcoholic drinks at Maos. Photo credit: Maos
Bottled zero proof cocktails
Outside the bar and restaurant space, bottled zero-proof cocktails continue to line the shelves in grocery aisles. Brands like Three Spirit offer 'elixirs' that purportedly aid with relaxation and mood - just add a splash of ginger ale and garnish with an orange slice. Seedlip, who sells three different kinds of non-alcoholic beverages, got the attention of drinks giant Diageo - in 2019 it bought a majority stake in the company.
It's an exciting time for those who are looking to cut back on their alcohol intake. Goodbye Shirley Temples, hello passionfruit juice infused with tea mushroom cultures from northeastern China.
It seems like you can get everything delivered to your door for a monthly price nowadays. Take a walk down your street and you’re sure to see at least one Amazon Prime truck and a porch piled high with someone’s haul of boxes. Hopefully their Hello Fresh order doesn’t stay outside for too long…
As the amount of people subscribing to a monthly box surged in 2020, Forbes forecasted that by 2023 as much as 75% of direct-to-consumer brands will have subscription based purchasing options. Specific to the hospitality sector, subscription based cocktail clubs will continue to have their shine into the new year. Brands such as SaloonBox, Shaker & Spoon, and Sourced Craft Cocktails all offer a simple concept: once a month, you'll get a box with a bottle of booze and the ingredients you'll need to make a set number of cocktails.
Shaker & Spoon ‘premiumizes’ the concept by collaborating with well-known mixologists, working with winners of Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards and the World’s 50 Best Bars. Sourced goes even further - in March 2020, the company started an initiative to hire out-of-work hospitality workers to deliver the boxes locally. Things like these help cocktail club brands stand out from the rest, and are sure to help these companies thrive through the new year.
And it makes sense that cocktail clubs and drink gift boxes are becoming more and more popular - customers who don't want to spend money on full size, potentially hard-to-find products that they might not ever use again would be enticed by the sample size liquors and garnishes. And as some companies go completely remote, they could provide a virtual alternative to a traditional happy hour or social gathering.
Not shaken, not stirred - canned
Canned cocktails are another trend that will continue to gain popularity through the new year. Portable and more eco-friendly than glass, the convenience of these mixed drinks in a can is enticing more and more customers. Grand View Research reports that the global market for canned alcoholic beverages (or RTD drinks) is expected to reach 13.4 billion US dollars by 2028. While High Noon's vodka based products may be the most well known so far, other big names like Diageo, Bacardi Limited, and Anheuser-Busch InBev continue to cash in on this opportunity for profit.
Even breweries are vying for a share of the market. Delaware based Dogfish Head Brewery recently came out with a line of vodka RTD drinks. And just on October 14th, Chicago brewery Goose Island announced the release of bourbon-based canned cocktails.
North America is the dominating region fueling this trend, with a market share of 53.7% in 2020. With an expected compound annual growth rate of 13.3% from 2021 to 2028, it's clear that canned cocktails are here to stay.
Canned, convenient, healthy
Canned cocktails, monthly craft cocktails at your door, zero proof - these are just a few of the exciting trends that will dominate 2022. It's clear, however, that there is a common thread among these trends - convenience and health. Ready to drink, at your door, pre-batched. Zero sugar, zero carb, zero proof. These are the things changing the landscape for the alcohol industry, and it will be very interesting to watch going into the year.