As Euromonitor’s latest annual research is finalised, 2017 is surfacing as a vintage year. The industry’s global volume growth might not appear positively intoxicating at first glance but at 1%, it is actually its strongest performance in half a decade.
It is a broad-based and potent cocktail of renewed buoyancy. From lager entering positive territory for the first time since 2013 on the back of the seemingly infinite premiumisation narrative to expanding non-alcoholic portfolios pushing the often maligned segment into the limelight, beer appears frothy rather than flat. But it doesn’t end there.
Shots of optimism were also prevalent in spirits where volume performance – at a perhaps uninspiring yet solid 1.5% - is also the strongest since 2012, driven as much by blended Scotch’s belated return to its historic trajectory as it was by the much vaunted Ginaissance that is currently in full swing. Registering a consistently accelerating 5% volume growth for the year, 2017 was English gin’s most stellar performance since at least the early 2000's.
Nevertheless, it was –yet again- brown spirits and their over-proof allure as the wider category’s de facto drivers that remained the protagonists. Beyond the Scottish usual suspects, it was whiskies across the board as well as cognac that continued capitalising on artisanal credentials, authentic and resonant stories and mixology entering the mainstream. Tequila also largely retained last year’s decade-high spike as the transition from shots to sipping and aspirational consumption takes the edge out of what was once a stiff drink.
But wine appeared to have robust legs too with still light grape varietals gaining momentum on the back of millennial-pink iterations reaching escape velocity. Red and white variants also fared relatively well but it was the rising rosé tide that provided a refreshing crisp finish to the wider wine segment. Other sparkling wine’s widely covered boom was likewise related to its casual and unpretentious positioning while vermouth’s mixability credentials catapulted it into positive territory for the first time in years with the category ultimately registering its strongest performance in nearly a decade.
Is it time for celebratory toasts then? Not quite. Ale’s gradual deceleration highlights the craft segment’s underlying saturation issues ultimately bubbling to the surface. Flavoured lager languishing into negative territory for the first time ever is another cautionary tale on the faddish limitations of flavour sophistication initiatives.
And vodka, still seemingly trapped in a downward spiral, remains a prescient reminder of both the danger of complacency and the unrelenting nature of cyclical generational consumer movements.