Reports Lead The News At VIBE Conference

Now that the VIBE conference, which set records for attendance and sponsorships this year, is over, it’s time to begin sifting through the various reports to see what can be used, what needs to be watched and how to put into practice the leading edge information shared.

While the full reports are available only to attendees, we can share some of the key insights. For instance, the Technomic report on trends in adult beverages on-premise indicated that dollar volume growth on-premise was trending up as were drink occasions. Further, Irish whisky, tequila, single malt Scotch, vodka and straight American whiskey were all seen as categories that were benefiting from on-premise exposure and helping lift on-premise beverage alcohol sales. Craft beers, too, not surprisingly, are seen as key beverages on menus across the country.

On the other hand, the annual report from Mike Ginley of Next Level Marketing focused on what today’s adult beverage consumer reported wanting to see more of at the national chain restaurants they visit. All of the information came from an on-premise consumer research study fielded exclusively for the 2013 Conference. Fielded on-line in February with 1,000 chain restaurant customers, the report found that 65 percent of these customers are spending the same or more at restaurant and bars as they were in the previous year, and almost 80 percent are going to the same priced or more expensive restaurants. In terms of their drinking habits, 60 percent of them are trying a new beer, wine, spirit or cocktail every 90 days.

Wine, of course, continues to be a major concern for chain operators and the international trends in wine production and popularity are especially so. Steve Fredericks of Turrentine Brokerage keeps track of the international wine planting, growing and producing trends as he brokers deals between producers, importers, bottlers and sellers, and his latest report finds that the long pinot noir shortfall may be easing, with California leading the harvest boom especially but also increasing competition from Chile and New Zealand. Short term, he noted that Pinot Noir grape demand and prices will remain strong, but price conscious. Wineries are still looking for more acres, and supply will still be pressed to meet demand for the foreseeable future.

Hotels are increasingly important to beverage suppliers and consumers alike, and so it was standing room only (as it was for most sessions) to hear the insights from David Henkes of Technomic on hotel beverage trends. Increasingly, he said, hotel food and beverage programs are important ways for units to differentiate themselves form the competition. Accounting for eight percent of on-premise beverage alcohol consumption, hotels are seen as benefiting especially from craft beer and wine by the glass programs. Increasingly, bars and happy hours are seen as key drivers of beverage alcohol growth in the segment.

Much more, of course, is available to attendees each year – next time, a report on more of the sessions.

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