The trends that defined 2019 for IWSR's analysts

IWSR analysts share the industry highlights that have left an impact on them, spanning from gin innovation and rosé preferences to new packaging trends and the craft spirits experience


As the year draws to a close, we’ve asked some of our IWSR analysts and team-members to reflect on the key trends from 2019. Read below for beverage alcohol market highlights that have left an impact on members of our team, spanning from gin innovation and rosé preferences to new packaging trends and the craft spirits experience.


Hard seltzers, or hard sparkling water, prove to be a dominating force

Within six years, hard sparkling water, also known as hard seltzers, have grown to account for nearly half (43%) of the entire US Ready-to-Drink (RTD) category. “They are far from a fad, and are pulling consumers from other beverage alcohol categories, not just beer,” highlights Brandy Rand, IWSR’s COO of Americas. Combined, hard seltzers and other canned seltzer-like products (vodka soda, as an example) will drive the total ready-to-drink category, making it the fastest-growing beverage alcohol category in the US over the next five years.


Cristalino boosts premiumisation and growth in the tequila category

The “tequila cristalino” phenomenon is sweeping the category in both Mexico and the US, and will contribute to ongoing growth in tequila’s two core markets. The global demand for tequila will expand by more than 20% over the next five years as well. “Cristalinos are accelerating premiumisation, as well as bringing new consumers into the category by appealing to those looking for something smoother than regular tequilas,” remarks Jose Luis Hermoso, IWSR’s Research Director for Central & South America.


Indian whisky dominates the global whisky category

The importance of the Indian whisky market to the global wellbeing of the whisky category cannot be overstated: nearly one in every two bottles of whisky bought around the world is now sold in India, and seven of the top ten global whisky brands are Indian. “The next generation of high-end Indian-made malts are already showing that they are of a sufficient standard to capture an audience in Western markets as well,” reflects Alastair Smith, Director at IWSR.


Hard coffee innovation taps into ‘better for you’ trend

Hard coffees and teas range from ‘better-for-you’ craft products that tap into the ‘healthy halo’ of positive ingredients such as green tea, to caffeinated coffee hybrids from big brewers,” remarks Chris Young, IWSR’s Head of Pricing and a Market Analyst.  Hard coffee falls into two camps: cold brew hard coffee and the more indulgent creamy hard coffee. These products are mostly launching in the US, with some also appearing in Canada and in Europe.


Gin continues to grow; Brazil and Asian markets are the ones to watch

Gin continues its incredible growth run. Markets such as Australia and Germany are not showing any signs of decreased momentum for gin, whilst in Brazil, a newer market, gin volumes doubled in 2018. “In Asia, the premium-and-above gin trend is the one to watch: in Japan, Gin Sonics are a major driver of success and locally sourced botanicals are winning in China,” comments Emily Neill, IWSR’s COO of Research and Operations.


Cognac’s dominance in China’s ecommerce channel is one to watch

Out of the ten core markets studied by the IWSR, China is the biggest market in ecommerce by a significant margin. Tommy Keeling, IWSR’s Research Director for Asia Pacific, remarks, “Looking at just imported spirits within China’s ecommerce channel, Cognac dominates, with a 74% share of value. This is unsurprising given that it is the most popular international spirit in China and sells at a relatively premium price point. However, in share of volumes, imported white spirits such as vodka, gin and rum have a much higher online penetration.”


Rosé remains one of the most potent and far-reaching trends

For Dan Mettyear, IWSR’s Research Director for wine, rosé’s growth trajectory remains clear. Mettyear notes, “rosé remains one of the most potent and far-reaching trends within the wine category, from markets as diverse as the US, Paraguay, China and Namibia, As the rosé trend has developed over the past few years, consumers have signalled a clear desire for lighter, Provençal-style rosés, which have come to embody the vibrant summertime moments that have characterised the movement.” In fact, exports of Provençal wine have increased at an average of 28% a year over the past five years.


Collectable and limited editions boost whisky

The popularity of the Johnnie Walker Blade Runner Edition a few years ago already signalled a trend towards pop culture-themed Scotch. In 2018, this trend gained momentum with Diageo’s launch of a Game of Thrones Collection of Single Malt Scotch Whiskies. Daniel Burelbach, IWSR Analyst on the Western Europe research team, notes, “The combination of whisky and pop culture offers significant business opportunities, especially among millennials. Collectable ranges of whiskies are selling fast, with distilleries deliberately releasing series of special editions that, across the years, form a collection.”


In-store tastings offer differentiation in the US Craft Spirits market

In the US Craft Spirits market, consumers are demanding more trial-size packaging from brands they are not familiar with. Adam Rogers, IWSR’s Research Director for North America, adds, “on- and off-premise retailers’ top suggestion is for craft distillers to provide resources for more in-store tastings to drive sales.” Since the average retail price of a craft spirit exceeds that of a non-craft product, trial is of the utmost importance for craft producers when breaking the initial consumption barrier. “While both the curiosity factor and the demand for locally produced spirits are important aspects of the purchasing decision, consumers ultimately give highest priority to the quality of the spirit when making a final purchasing choice,” advises Rogers.



You may also be interested in reading:

IWSR’s top 5 US beverage trends for 2020

Changing millennial preferences drive packaging innovation and on-site experiences at US wineries

Eco-Packaging Trends Across Spirits, Wine and Beer


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