Hard seltzers, opportunity in Africa and tariff troubles

Highlights from the IWSR Forecasting the Future Seminar in London

Speakers at the IWSR Forecasting the Future seminar highlighted the opportunity surrounding female empowerment in Africa, the potential for more tariff troubles and the surprising statistic that 50% of consumers add alcohol to hard seltzers.


The rise of hard seltzers in the US was thought to be driven in part by the health and wellness trend – low abv, low calorie and refreshment being key. However, IWSR’s latest research appears to contradict this, as 50% of consumers surveyed in the US were found to add alcohol to their hard seltzers, with 30% adding vodka. This was one of the highlights from the IWSR Forecasting the Future Seminar held in London on 5th December 2019. Mark Meek, CEO of IWSR, stated that hard seltzers were unlikely to take off in Europe, although he could see potential in other mixed drinks such as the whisky highball.

In Africa, taking better control over route-to-market was cited by Richard Rushton, MD of Distell, as one of the key factors needed for spirits to make greater inroads into the beer market. He also discussed the female opportunity in Africa, where growing female empowerment with access to education and financial independence, could be a significant driver of consumption. Whilst brown spirits offer a bigger opportunity than white spirits across Africa, Mr Rushton believes that gin in South Africa has significant potential due to its versatility and the ability it gives to consumers to “badge” their drinking occasion.

Changing consumer lifestyles offer great opportunities for cocktails, according to Mark de Witte, CEO of De Kuyper. Food and cocktail occasions are growing outside the US, where this is already a familiar combination. The key to success in cocktails is to keep it simple: offer three ingredients, say, rather than six or seven, and enable consumers to mix their own at home. And Instagram offers the perfect platform for showcasing both at bars and at home.

The spirits industry could partly be a victim of its own success, according to Marie Audren, Secretary General of the World Spirits Alliance. We are entering a new tariff age; Bourbon and Scotch have both been caught in the cross-fire of a trade war that started in aircraft manufacturing and steel/aluminium. Spirits is the leading EU agri-food export sector by value, accounting for 10% of the total. The trade flow in spirits from the EU to the US is €4bn, whilst in return the US exports €1bn worth of spirits to the EU. It’s difficult to predict what will happen in 2020, but the global spirits industry is working well together to find a positive outcome.


You may also be interested in reading:

Hard Seltzer Consumption Forecasted to Triple by 2023

Cocktail innovation: spices and savoury notes are the flavour profiles to watch on both coasts of the US

New occasions and female empowerment drive change in the South African drinks market


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