- Flavour polarisation, radicalisation and experimentation: From saccharine extensions to the rise of tart offerings and from syrupy indulgence to sour, salty and bitter concoctions, the two extremes of the flavour palette will steal the spotlight. Key millennial, gen X and female demographics will find themselves in the crosshairs of large and small producers hard pressed to highlight points of differentiation in increasingly mature and saturated markets. While vodka’s cloying waves begin to subside the baton has already been passed on to whiskey and liqueurs at the same time that the inevitable backlash will pave the way for diametrically opposite flavour profiles embracing bitterness- Campari and Fernet Branca will lead the way while drinking vinegar will enter the fray.
- Rum lift off: The US congress finally lifting the decades long Cuban import ban could provide the spark for the long overdue detonation of the category. While top line volume growth might continue facing headwinds battering low quality variants in emerging markets such as India, the category’s versatility and newfound premium aspirations will inform its short term performance. Embracing the unique heritage of English, Spanish and French expressions, carefully dipping a toe into the flavoured bandwagon and cruising on the enviable momentum enjoyed by dark spirits, rum will be one of the protagonists.
- Whiskey coming of age: Tearing down centuries old taboos framing the debate around the category, whiskey will continue questioning gender targeting, the orthodoxy of aged statements and the stuffy associations of its historic positioning. Outsiders such as Japanese whiskeys will continue disrupting the traditional narrative at the same time that distilleries with fresh, radical propositions and a surprising geographical spread will continue making inroads in global markets thirsty for exotic options. Flavoured whiskies – or is that liqueurs?- will indeed prove more than a fickle trend and will thus retain their pivotal role as a baggage-free introduction to the wider category. On the other hand, and while experiential marketing initiatives will continue recruiting passionate advocates, vulgar and absurd luxury will need to be side-lined before it alienates the category’s core demographic.
- The Allure of Others: Frequently obscured by international spirit behemoth’s long and heavy shadow, other spirits will exit the side-lines to assume the role of unlikely protagonists. Cachacas- fighting old prejudices and shifting from commodity status to aspirational exoticism- and raki – capitalising on Diageo’s clout, Turkish diasporas and cuisine and the poignancy of the ‘’slow luxury proposition- will be ones to watch.
- White Spirits: Not Raising the White Flag: If Vodka was already the whipping boy of the nascent mixology movement to start with, it lost almost all remaining credibility somewhere along the lines of the launch of whipped cream varietals. However, beyond the terminal maturity of the Russian patient, vodka has now gone full circle and could provide the simple, effective, no-frills alternative to the sophistication overload and hipster pretentiousness that replaced it. On the other hand, English Gin will continue going from botanical strength to aged experimentation while taking Northern European markets by storm and providing fuel for the explosive growth trajectories of micro-distillers in the UK and the US.
For more insights, read "Top 5 Beverage Trends in the Middle East and North Africa"