A look at the year ahead…

Our trusted experts come back in our first issue of the year to discuss what 2023 has in store for us. 

Welcome back to Bar Magazine – and if you’re new, bienvenue! We are so excited to start the year alongside an industry that is ready to go above and beyond, just like always – if not more. 2022 has been a year of surprises, innovation, education and raising awareness about the issues we face every day. We only expect the next 12 months to be following the same path; the hospitality sector will continue to thrive and provide patrons with the experiences they deserve. 

It is fair to say that we need to buckle up; most importantly, it would come in handy to know what to keep an eye out for as the new year begins. Of course, we turned to our seasoned counsellors to gather a few insights on the matter, spanning from up-and-coming trends to newly established brands. 

Liam Jackson, UK Marketing Lead at Stoli Group Brands, reminds us of the strength of our sector despite the current situation around the rising costs of living and inflation. 

He says: “The market trends in alcohol historically show us that consumers still strive to treat themselves and the category value doesn’t fall. The big question is where the money will be spent…Whether it’s heading to a bar for an elit™ Spritz after a hard day in the office or that Saturday round of Espresso Martinis with friends, we’ve seen people are still committed to getting out of their homes and enjoying themselves. This may be less frequent perhaps than in 2022, but it’s really up to the trade and brands to romanticise bringing people in and leaving the ‘at home’ experience to the pandemic times!”

These encouraging words certainly set high expectations for the future, but we believe these will be met as life needs have changed for all of us. Our consumers have started orientating towards a more self-aware approach, which means they will search for those experiences that will make them feel special and rewarded – as they should be!

Liam explains how the industry should focus on customer needs and what drives them into the trade: “Whether it’s transparency on price and product, simplicity in serves and promotions or concentrating on key partnerships that really drive the business forward, a service strategy needs to be built on knowledge of the categories and in-the-moment trends. 

“With elit™Vodka, in sales or marketing, we have a clear strategy on where we should be, how we should be served and what compliments the brand itself and the liquid. We shape our strategic planning in line with what our core demographic is asking for, and alter this across the different sales and marketing channels.”

The brand has also had a successful launch of its Global elit™ Martini Masters program over the last couple of months, where some of the best bartenders in the world competed in challenges designed to showcase and test their cocktail skills, knowledge and creativity. The global winner was UK-based Arturo Burzio, representing Scarfes Bar at Rosewood.

Numerous brands are, like elit™, keeping up with the times and working on their products to achieve the best level of quality and enjoyment for consumers. 

We know that tequila has seen a rise in popularity during 2022, especially celebrated and rediscovered on occasion of El Día de los Muertos and currently one of the top liquids bartenders are having fun experimenting with. We also have familiarised ourselves with new expressions of whisky, a tipple that is going through a re-invention and annihilating the ‘old man drink’ stereotype.

The team at Smokehead, ‘the rebels of whisky’, have taken the two and come up with a fascinating expression, resulting in Smokehead Cask Terminado: an Islay Scotch finished in tequila casks. Breaking rules and bringing endlessly unexpected flavours, the tequila cask finish created a genuinely unique whisky where fiery peat awakes with wild agave.

Terminado joins cousins Rum Cask Rebel, Sherry Cask Blast and Twisted Stout. A unique collection of single malts with distinctive, edgy finishes. Iain Weir, Brand Director of Smokehead, says: 

“Smokehead is a brand that constantly pushes the boundaries of what single malt whisky is – and how it’s perceived. By embracing contemporary methods of finishing, we’re at the forefront of innovation – both as a brand and within the industry at large. All for the benefit of our valued customers.

“Tequila Cask Terminado is more than a passion project for us. It’s an embodiment of everything Smokehead stands for. Rule-breaking, ‘pouring-less-boring’ and defiance. We’re so proud to launch Tequila Cask Terminado into the unique Smokehead family.”

Of course, vodka, tequila and whisky won’t be shining alone; spirits shall be performing very well across a number of categories, and Head of Category Development for the On Trade at Diageo, Alex Haslam, shares a few insights about the company’s portfolio. 

Alex says: “Consumers still prioritise food and drink spending; however, they expect value – especially when it comes to creating memorable experiences. Our top-performing brands have set up venues with the opportunity to create exciting drinks choices at different price points on menus, providing customers with choice and quality too. Paired with value, quality also plays a huge part in encouraging repeat returns to venues. 

“Operators should provide customers with choice when it comes to drink menus to cater to a number of occasions – ensuring there are also more premium drinks encouraging guests to trade up to more elaborate serves.”

Top performing brands within the Diageo portfolio include Gordon’s and Smirnoff; Gordon’s is notorious for its quality and value, making an ideal base for many cocktails, and Smirnoff is undeniably a thriving brand. 

Alex explains how gin is a key spirit of choice among consumers, lending itself to many drink combinations and occasions: “Gin variants have experienced high levels of popularity over the past few years, with innovation playing a huge part in this growth – we’re proud to be a part of it with Gordon’s.”

Popular launches include Gordon’s Sicilian Lemon Distilled Gin (37.5% ABV), and more recently Gordon’s Tropical Passionfruit Distilled Gin (37.5% ABV), demonstrating their dedication to tapping into consumers’ desire to explore new flavours and continue recruiting new audiences into the category. 

Alex continues: “Vodka has notably enjoyed an increase in volume and value sales in the past year, and it is another spirit that is celebrated for its versatility as it can be enjoyed in so many ways. Flavoured vodka is experiencing the fastest growth within the vodka category and with that, we’re seeing new innovations – this includes Smirnoff Raspberry Crush, Smirnoff Mango & Passionfruit Twist and Smirnoff Berry Burst.”

Finally, Alex brings our attention to a category that has steadily been gathering drinkers; with many consumers looking to moderate alcohol consumption, the No and Low category is set to continue to grow. 

Alex concludes: “We’ve tapped into this increasing demand by introducing Guinness 0.0 across the on trade – customers opting for No and Low alcoholic drinks have the opportunity to enjoy a high-quality stout that is unmistakably Guinness, just without the alcohol.”

Spirits are not the only drink option that will be crossing consumers’ minds over 2023; cider is finding its pace succeeding way beyond summertime, and the wine category is expanding by bringing up-and-coming labels to the attention of UK patrons. 

Rob Sandall, On Trade Sales Director at Thatchers Cider, reminds us of how the premiumisation trend has turned to be a main focus on both sides of the bar, and visits to pubs and bars are increasingly seen as a treat. 

Rob advises: “Having a range of premium ciders on your bar and in the fridge should remain key, so now is the time to review your cider range and be prepared with brands you can trust to deliver on taste, have strong consumer appeal and help boost profits.”

The team at Thatchers reports that fruity, sweeter taste profiles have grown in popularity, reflecting a shift towards lighter, citrus and tropical flavours in all drink categories. This has also shown to be the case with cider drinkers, with Thatchers Blood Orange and Thatchers Cloudy Lemon resulting to be a success. The team are expecting this to be the case throughout 2023, becoming one of the main trends of the year. 

Furthermore, innovation will increase its relevance into 2023, helping bring excitement and theatre to the bar and providing an extra special experience for consumers. 

Rob continues: “We see opportunities arise from innovation – technology is improving the share of voice on products that drive value and volume, such as Thatchers Fusion. With its innovative three-in-one font, Fusion increases consumer choice and reduces business complexity. 

“Lastly, cider cocktails are another way of adding more theatre to the bar. The number of outlets that stock cocktails in the on trade has risen significantly; Thatchers has a menu full of premium cider cocktails that are available for customers to add to their own menus, adding excitement to the whole experience.”

As we have mentioned, wine is also a category that is going to expand its horizons and continue to spark interest in drinkers. Trond Rornes, Co-Founder of Bacchus Wines PLDC tells us how they predict a rise in the demand for smaller, independent wine estates as consumers have refined their requirements for the future.

Trond says: “Wine drinkers are more discerning than ever before. They are looking for delicious wines that offer value and provenance from vineyards that they may not be familiar with. That’s what we’re all about at Bacchus Wines PLDC – we only sell wines we love to drink from independent estates we know personally, such as Château de Parenchère.”

He also offers a breakdown of what Bacchus Wines will be stocking throughout 2023, providing yet again exquisite options to the public. Specifically, great things are expected from Maison Paul Lebrun, founded in 1902 and providing Champagne excellence ever since. 

Trond adds: “The estate draws inspiration from generations of family winemaking experts on the Cramant, one of the seventeen villages classified as ‘Grand Cru’ in Champagne. 

“To begin, we will stock Carte d’Or Brut, 100% Chardonnay grapes, offering a brilliant pale gold colour, fine bubbles, and a nose of candied lemon, peaches and pears. Then, the Extra Brut, with a yellow robe, delicate bubbles, elegant notes of white blossom, grapefruit and pineapple and low sugar content. Finally, the spectacular Cuvee Prestige Brut, aged on lees for a minimum of forty-eight months with an intense structure, tiny bubbles, ripe peach, and nectarine notes.”

Solely distributed to the UK by Bacchus Wines PLDC, the team expresses their excitement in this exclusive role; “We feel incredibly privileged that the family-run Champagne house has chosen us as their sole UK distributor.”

This enthusiasm for the wine category is perceived by many in our industry, especially since the trade seem to be ready to prove itself resilient and work together to overcome the current challenges. 

Lanchester Wines’ Director of Sales, Mark Roberts, he makes a few recommendations to capitalise on current and predicted trends, pointing out a few elements that will help you navigate your way through 2023 – alongside an astounding wine selection, of course! 

“It’s never been more important to make sure staff are fully versed in your wine list in order to upsell, which your wine supplier can help with,” says Mark. “Wine maker dinners and special events will give a point of difference. There is a global supply crisis across all commodities, which is impacting all importers, so make sure your supplier can think on their feet and keep you in stock – fundamentally, you can’t sell what you don’t have.”

Mark speaks about a few brands that are predicted to thrive in the new year, through which the Lanchester Wines team show their commitment to following consumers’ needs and providing them with quality products.

Amongst these, Lanchester’s flagship brand, Nika Tiki Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, is set to make some noise in the near future, showcasing the very best of Marlborough’s signature wines and first created in 2012. Its new label design, which was launched for Vintage 2022, promotes both the company and the winery’s sustainable ethos: it’s printed on FSC-certified, sustainable paper created from woodfree, 100% post-consumer recycled fibres.

Finally, Mark predicts that operators will increasingly look to bulk wine – the shipping of wine in bulk containers and then packing in the UK through contact wine bottlers. He highlights the cost-saving benefits, alongside the much-needed reduction of carbon emissions caused by transport. 

He adds: “Bulk wine also allows for flexibility of format. With the pressure on the global glass industry and efficiencies achieved through working in larger formats such as premium BIB, we’ve seen a huge increase in premium draft wine which not only decreases the amount of packaging but also, more importantly, allows a better margin per serve.”

The list is endless when it comes to expectations for the new year; our experts have done their best to give us a few pointers and, of course, we at Bar will continue to guide you throughout 2023 with more valuable tips from esteemed industry leaders. 

Regardless of any challenge that might come our way, the hospitality sector is ready to face it all; there will be plenty of opportunities across all categories, capitalising on consumers’ need for premium experiences.

Previous <strong>Guy Lawrence appointed Chair of The Drinks Trust at The Wine Trade Lunch hosted by the Vintners’ Company</strong>
Next <strong>The next generation of fries have arrived… and they are REALLY Crunchy!</strong>