Raise a glass to these new alcoholic beverage insights
February 8, 2016
beverage trends (Photo: Flickr user
Didriks)

For many, ringing in a new year means clinking glasses of bubbly together in celebration. At Datassential, we’re toasting 2016 with our latest MenuTrends Keynote Report covering insights in alcoholic beverages. Our report covers all the bases, from consumer sentiment on alcohol preferences to operator data on what’s being served and where. The following is just a small shot of all of the insights covered in our report – a little aperitif to start you off.

Alcohol appeals to…

Alcoholic beverages are both widely available and widely consumed in the US. According to Datassential MenuTrends, more than half of all restaurants serve some type of alcoholic beverage. While it should come as no surprise that non-alcoholic beverages are more widely consumed in any given day (water is the most common, followed by brewed coffee), beer and wine don’t fall far behind. Beer is the most consumed alcoholic beverage, with 16% of adults drinking beer on any given day, a higher consumption rate than many non-alcoholic drinks like specialty coffee, sports drinks and energy drinks. And we don’t just cover traditional beers in this report, we cover everything from hard ciders, often seen as an alternative to beer, to beer cocktails, featuring beer mashups like the shandy, radler or boilermaker. We uncover the attributes that consumers find most appealing about beers, wine and spirits, from taste to brand to cost. In fact, more than 80% of wine drinkers said taste was the most important attribute (outweighing even cost, selected as the most important to about 60% of consumers). While brands are important to more than half of all consumers (55%) when it comes to distilled spirits, it’s not as important for wine drinkers (36%).

Now trending

At Datassential, one of the most common questions we are asked is, “What’s next?”, particularly at the beginning of the year, when everyone is focused on the latest trend predictions (check out Datassential’s last SmartBrief story for an overview of all our upcoming 2016 trends). The “smoked” trend, which we covered in 2010, is transitioning to the drink menu, from smoky ingredients like smoked salts in a cocktail to the visually-appealing addition of actual smoke to finish a drink before serving. Other savory flavors like spices and peppers are also finding their way into creative cocktails, often with the addition of chili-infused liquors, or sometimes with the spice itself. At Moe’s Cantina, in Chicago, you’ll find bold flavors and heat in the passion fruit sangria, made with habanero-infused simple syrup, ground chili pepper on the rim and garnished with a whole jalapeno chili pepper “boat.”

Consumers are also interested in two contrasting alcoholic beverage trends: indulgent dessert cocktail shots and skinny/healthy cocktails. According to the report, one-third of consumers are interested in dessert shots -- or mini, alcohol-infused reinventions of traditional desserts. At The Forge Restaurant & Wine Bar in Miami, the dessert shot menu features everything from an Almond Joy shot with rum, amaretto, chocolate cream and a coconut rim, to the s’more shot with vanilla vodka and chocolate liquor topped with a baked graham cracker and a toasted marshmallow meringue cap. You’ll also find spiked milkshakes at operators like Red Robin, which has a line of boozy shakes in flavors like a Blue Moon Beer Shake, a hybrid beverage combining beer with cocktail ingredients (orange liqueur in this case) or a Spiked Grasshopper Shake. On the flip side, about a third of consumers are also interested in skinny cocktails. You’ll find the Skinnygirl line of low-calorie wines and cocktails at both retail and restaurants, but any operator or manufacturer can take advantage of this trend by offering healthier, lower-calorie versions of tried-and-true cocktail favorites.

Beyond alcohol

About a quarter of adult Americans say they don’t drink alcohol at all, and alcoholic beverages aren’t the right fit for every operator, depending on factors like licensing and an operator’s target demographic, yet many alcohol flavor and conceptual trends can impact and be leveraged outside of the drink menu, from non-alcoholic beverages to sauces to desserts. Trending cocktail flavors and ingredients, such as rhubarb (up nearly 500% on cocktail menus since 2011) and lavender (up 89% on cocktail menus in the same time frame) can be easily translated into craft non-alcoholic beverages, such as mocktails or coffee. At chef Jose Garces’ Minibar, in Washington, D.C., customers can pair tasting menus with a “Virtue” non-alcoholic beverage package featuring drinks like “faux secco” or a handcrafted ginger-pomegranate soda. Casual operators like TGI Fridays, with its line of virgin cocktails, smoothies and lemonades, have also embraced inspiration from craft cocktails.

Renee Lee is a publications specialist at Datassential, a supplier of trends, analysis and concept testing for the food industry. For more information about ordering the MenuTrends Keynote Alcoholic Beverages Report, contact Brian Darr at brian@datassential.com.

__________________________________________________

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s email list for more stories about the food and beverage industry. We offer 14 newsletters covering the industry from restaurants to food manufacturing.