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Alcohol Industry Trends and Expectations for 2021

Experts who made predictions for the alcohol industry in 2019 for 2020 are now probably thinking that was a waste of time. No one knew the impact that coronavirus would have on alcohol sales, drinking habits, and marketing strategies. Now that we’re at the end of 2020 and still no end to the pandemic in sight, it’s anyone’s guess as to what we’ll see in the industry next year. 

However, that will never stop us from speculating about the trends that will likely headline 2021. Here are some of our top alcohol industry trends and expectations for 2021 based on the events of the last 12 months:

Premiumization Will Thrive as Consumption Decreases

A hallmark of the global pandemic has been a greater focus on health and immunity. With bars and restaurants closing or greatly limiting their hours and social distancing being highly encouraged, many consumers are cutting back on their social drinking.

While cutting back in moderation, more consumers are opting for premium spirits in a quality-over-quantity mindset. They have a little more to spend since they’re not drinking as much or as often. Plus, they want their drinking experiences to offer a little more than their standard nights out on the town.

There’s also been a noticeable increase in the education side of the alcohol industry. More consumers are curious about how their favorite spirits are made and where they come from. We’re seeing a more informed “drinking society” which is also raising expectations for quality. 

Consumer Experience Will Be a Competitive Advantage

Even when bars were open (ah, the good old days!), they had evolved into more than just a place to drink. Today’s consumers are increasingly interested in experiences. They expect venues to add more value than simply offering run-of-the-mill libations and service. 

The same holds true of the spirit brands they purchase. Competing on taste alone is no longer enough. With more consumers becoming educated about processes, company values, and sustainability, they’re eager to support spirit brands that have something more to offer. 

One way consumers are exhibiting this preference is by buying locally made spirits, wines, and brews. This is viewed as a more sustainable option, not to mention it helps support local economies. 

Another consumer experience we’ve noticed is the art of in-home tastings. Subscription wine services, bourbon tasting kits, and personalized whiskey crates are turning average Joes into connoisseurs in the comfort of their own homes. These kits typically come with a variety of drinks to sample and savor, as well as note cards about their flavor, food pairings, and best ways to enjoy each variety.

This year, the SIP Awards 2020 went all virtual and sent sampler kits to our participants. This allowed more people to get involved in the judging (we had a record turnout this year) while providing a fun, socially distanced, drive-free drinking experience.

We believe this trend will continue, and spirits brands who can get involved in the at-home experience are poised to thrive in 2021.

Competitions Will Be Key for Alcohol Marketing

With fewer people social drinking, building brand awareness will take on new tactics. One way to get in front of more consumers is entering tasting competitions. This not only exposes your brand to more consumers who are likely to become advocates, but also gives you honest feedback about your products so you can improve. 

Working with the SIP Awards, we also empower you with our marketing tools to help your brand stand out. Learn more about entering your brand in the SIP Awards 2021 and how we’re helping move the alcohol industry forward.

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