Independent product rating and review company Tastings has been in operation for almost 40 years. At first known for fair and impartial reviews of wine, they’re scope has expanded to include spirits, beer and cider.
“Powered,” as they say, by the Beverage Testing Institute, Tastings has developed a proprietary blind tasting method. Panelists include restaurateurs, trade buyers and sellers, retailers and writers who are all vetted and trained by Tastings.
The company has been reviewing and delivering on their mission to help both the trade and consumers discover and understand beverages for decades. Tastings’ decades of experience have positioned them to be a forecaster of where the industry is headed.
The inaugural edition of the Tastings quarterly industry topic roundup, Adult Beverage Topics Fall and Winter 2018, was released recently. The report focuses on four major beverage alcohol categories—spirits, beer, cider and wine—and four topics: flavor, packaging, the marketplace, and what’s new and hot.
The number of mainstream barrel-aged and barrel-influenced spirits has become somewhat overwhelming. Consumers may be over this flavor trend…on the surface. Tastings thinks craft spirits aged in local, alternative and/or rare woods will become the new focus for your guests who like barreled spirits.
Read this: World Class Cocktail Trends for 2019
Predicting beer flavor trends used to be as simple as saying, “IPA will dominate,” and calling it a day. Tastings, however, has identified crushable, sessionable beers with clean flavors to be favored by consumers over bitter, hop-focused brews.
This beverage alcohol category is beginning to mirror wine rather than beer. Tastings expects more artisanal, drier and funkier expressions to hit the market and win favor with consumers.
Flavored wines, it appears, aren’t going anywhere. It’s not exactly a secret that some wine producers add flavor- and aroma-enhancing additives to products. That’s not what constitutes a flavored wine. No, Tastings is referring to wines that are fully “enhanced,” infused with flavors such as coffee, chocolate, various peppers, and even candy.
Sustainable brands need to boost their messaging and grab the attention of consumers who want to order products from transparent, responsible companies.
Read this: Follow These Trends Through the End of 2018
Today’s consumer expects the businesses they support to be sustainable, ethical and operate responsibly. The beer industry is aware of this. Expect to see more beer brands go sustainable with biodegradable six-pack rings.
Depending on your bar setup, you may or not be thrilled to learn that Tastings predicts cider producers to move away from traditional beer can and bottle packaging in favor of 750ml wine bottle-style packaging. Tastings sees cider as wine’s “philosophical counterpart,” solidifying their belief that cider is courting a more sophisticated consumer perception.
Beverage industry and wine experts used to caution against selecting wines based on label design. Well, consumers have long ignored that advice. Today’s consumer is attracted to Instagrammable wine labels. Operators interested in leveraging this trend should position bottles with appealing labels somewhere guests can see them, then encourage those who order them to snap a photo, tag their venue, and post it.
Cannabis, particularly CBD, is on fire right now. Constellation, Diageo and Breakthru have made significant investments in the cannabis industry, so it shouldn’t be surprising when we see them leverage these investments in the spirit (and therefore hospitality) space with infused beverages.
Craft beer has done more than just disrupt Big Beer—it has changed the off- and on-premise landscapes. Retail is expected to take continual hits from taprooms as they become the norm. Tastings is referring to this cannibalization as “The New Brewery Takeover.” Potential new operators may want to consider a taproom concept as their entrant into the hospitality industry.
If Tastings is correct, expect more of your cider-drinking guests to ask for “heritage ciders.” These are ciders made with heirloom and cider-variety apples, produced with techniques similar to traditional winemaking (see above: the 750ml bottle packaging prediction).
If you own a wine bar, please don’t lash out at the messenger. We’re just letting you know that Tastings predicts doom for wine bars. Consumers have shown that they expect the restaurants and bars they frequent to keep up with their demands for esoteric, local and private label wines, so Tastings may be on to something.
What’s New? What’s Hot?
Lesser known (in the U.S. market) agave spirits such as raicilla and sotol will continue their rise in consumer interest and popularity. The same may happen with cane spirits as Charanda and Clairin become more interesting to American consumers looking for alternatives to traditional rums.
However, as the aforementioned “alternative” agave spirits become more mainstream, sustainability is expected to become an issue.
Tastings wonders if the new normal will be “a brewery on every block.” Demand for craft beer is seeing a shift toward hyper-local offerings. Operators seeking to speak to and retain local beer drinkers would be smart to partner with small local brewers.
You’re likely very aware that rosé is a craze among wine drinkers. Expect that same fervor for rosé to develop in the cider world.
Tastings has identified natural a.k.a. low intervention wine (made with minimal chemical and/or technological intervention), piscine wine a.k.a. la Piscine de Rosé or la Piscine de Champagne (still or sparkling wines intended to be served on ice), and climate change as notable moving forward. However, it remains to be seen, according to Tastings, if natural wine is a “player” or “played out.”