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Bar & Beverage Trends from Around the World

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Poised on the cusp of the last quarter of 2022, this is an excellent moment to examine some of the trends sweeping through the bar and beverage world. It gives us a good opportunity to see where we’ve come from and where we’re going, and hopefully have a chance to come to grips with the ongoing challenges of this year as we prepare to face the next. 

First, the bad news. One continuing trend that no one is excited about (but everyone must face) is the continued upheaval in the worldwide supply chain. There isn’t one root cause; each disruptive issue cascades into the next. The invasion of Ukraine, wildly fluctuating fuel prices and constantly unfolding shipping delays mean that plans should be flexible, adaptable and preferably plugged into local availability. 

In addition, severe weather events are hitting every continent, sometimes from opposite extremes. Extraordinarily high and low temperatures are on the rise everywhere, and the floods and droughts they can produce may potentially result in massive disruptions on the growth and harvest of base ingredients. 

But the news is not all dire. In fact, nations are beginning to address the realities of global climate change, taking their cue from the wealth of research environmental activists have gathered over years. Which leads us to our first—and most prevalent—trend.

Sustainability 

People visit bars for many reasons. Chief among them to socialize, to relax, unwind and have fun, to meet up with old friends or make new ones, and to drink something delicious. We choose our drinking spots for novelty or decor, for theme or location, or even for accessibility. Now there’s another reason to choose a favourite spot: sustainability. 

Eco-friendly bars are on the rise worldwide, and they approach sustainability from many angles at once. With drastically reduced waste production, a determination to move away from single-use plastics (especially drinking straws), eco-friendly architecture and fixtures, locally and fair-trade supplied ingredients, drinking places are setting a new standard of ecological stewardship and responsibility.

Canada is no stranger to one exciting aspect of this movement: the transformation of waste into delicious drinks. In 2016, Canadian Kelsey Ramage and Australian Iain Griffiths founded Trash Tiki, a traveling international event series and online platform demonstrating how to make drinks out of leftover bar items like rinds, peels and pulps. Although Ramage and Griffiths permanently closed their first fixed location, Supernova Ballroom, in Toronto during the 2020 shutdown, their influence still reverberates around the world. 

Inspired by a Trash Tiki pop-up, owner Phil Abowd’s bar Pocket makes cocktails out of spices and citrus peels sourced from his other bar, Southside, both located in Haebangcheon, Seoul. Pocket is a highball bar focused on environmental, social and economic sustainability. Abowd distilled what he’d learned from Trash Tiki and Southside into what he describes as “a community bar that gives back, highlights local talent and charities and pushes us to think about food and beverage waste.”

In addition to partnering with a local coffee roaster to collect grounds he forges into drinks with extra oomph, Abowd collected bottle glass and local shells to create Pocket’s aggregate bar top surface. Pocket also gives back to the community, donating ten percent of profits to local charities which change every month—a percentage Abowd hopes will increase as the bar grows—and lets charities use the space for talks and workshops.

But when it comes to sustainability at every level, Re, in Sydney, Australia, is a world class standout. Winner of Ketel One’s Sustainable Bar Award in 2021, Re’s owner Matt Whiley built sustainability from the ground up, literally. Whiley diverted more than 82 thousand milk bottles from landfill for his bar top and tables. The bar floor is plant-based and largely compostable, and the banquette fabric is made from pineapple leaf fibre.

British-born Whiley’s experience at former London bar Scout taught him that overripe fruit is sweeter, making for tastier drinks. He also learned that misshapen fruit is cheaper, and that shape is frankly immaterial once it’s blended. He has since expanded to collecting other food byproducts which he uses to make drinks of all kinds. Re is considered the world’s first bar built on waste. And, like Ramage and Griffiths, Whiley wants to change the world’s perspective on what “waste” means. 

An important cornerstone of Whiley’s overall strategy is to pay suppliers for the waste products he obtains. “I don’t believe I should benefit from it at the supplier’s expense. He has to get paid for something that he would normally put in the bin. If you don’t give him compensation, that just makes it easier for him to throw it away. Everyone has to benefit along the way—that’s the only way it can work.” 

An important cornerstone of Whiley’s overall strategy is to pay suppliers for the waste products he obtains. “I don’t believe I should benefit from it at the supplier’s expense. He has to get paid for something that he would normally put in the bin. If you don’t give him compensation, that just makes it easier for him to throw it away. Everyone has to benefit along the way—that’s the only way it can work.” 

According to a recent American Express Trendex survey, most Canadians prefer to buy from businesses and brands who support their own individual sustainable efforts.

Penicillin Bar in Hong Kong was celebrated by Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2021 for its minimal waste approach. Constantly trying to reduce its carbon footprint, including re- and upcycled materials, Penicillin’s goal is to become Hong Kong’s first “scrapless’ bar” by brewing, fermenting, growing and reusing ingredients. Himkok, in Oslo, Norway produces 80 per cent of their own spirits, beer, wine, mead and kefir using botanicals they grow themselves or find locally, using a windmill to help power their distillery.

Beyond countries or currencies, what these bars share is the belief that sustainable choices are no longer an upscale option but an absolute necessity. Sustainability is more than a trend: it’s a massive movement affecting every part of the global food industry, and it’s important to both operators and customers. In fact, according to a recent American Express Trendex survey, most Canadians
prefer to buy from businesses and brands who support their own individual sustainable efforts, and are willing to pay a premium to do so.

Experience

If the last two-plus years of the pandemic have taught us anything, it is that humans are social creatures. We create meaning by making bonds, establishing patterns and routines, and by seeking out new and different environments to make them familiar. Novelty and connection are two social qualities we particularly crave, especially after so long without them. 

We’ve been hearing the phrases “pent up demand” and “the new Roaring 20s” lately, and for a good reason. Stay-at-home orders, gathering restrictions, closures and travel bans kept us cut off from one another and from new collective experiences, and as constraints loosen up, the entire world is looking to make up for lost time. 

Today consumers are eager to forge connections with friends, their communities, and international cultures and experiences. According to the Bank of Canada, Canadians plan to spend significantly more over the next year. Some of that is due to inflation, but 2.5 years of enforced homestay have also led to a record high level of household savings. People are ready to spend on memorable evenings out: they simply want their dollars to count.

In May of 2022, 20% of consumers said that over the last three months, they had been spending extra for better-quality drinks.

Today consumers are eager to forge connections with friends, their communities, and international cultures and experiences. According to the Bank of Canada, Canadians plan to spend significantly more over the next year. Some of that is due to inflation, but 2.5 years of enforced homestay have also led to a record high level of household savings. People are ready to spend on memorable evenings out: they simply want their dollars to count.

Pop-Ups 

Offering the new, the different, and above all the temporary, pop-ups are more relevant than ever. Operators can test local appetites, brands can try new concepts, and guests get to take part in a brand-new adventure. The adventure aspect is key: a pop-up should showcase something truly different in alcohol, service, or experience. For instance:

  • In March 2022, the upstairs space at Death & Co’s Denver location, Suite 6A, became The House of Suntory, featuring highballs and a concentrated menu of Japanese spirits-based cocktails, gloriously decorated with puffs of cherry blossoms.
  • Krug, the renowned Champagne house, has hosted several month-long Champagne pop-ups on the rooftop terrace of the Shangri-la Paris. Each year Krug has a new theme and includes a new special ingredient in their exclusive pop-up Champagne.
  • In Atlanta, Chef Arnaldo Castillo tried his first pop-up in 2020 to provide food for essential workers. In 2021, he left his restaurant job to launch La Chingana full time, serving a tasting menu of classic Peruvian dishes. Recently La Chingana evolved into a permanent restaurant, Tio Lucho, focusing on coastal dishes.

Limited Time Offers (LTOS)

If a pop-up seems too complex an endeavour, another way to provide guests with a chance to try something new and different is with a limited time offer. Usually lasting six to eight weeks, LTOs give restaurants, bars and coffee shops a chance to concentrate on a single point of novelty. Long-used to drive customer traffic and incremental sales, LTOs also offer an opportunity to work with local suppliers, distillers and brewers to highlight a particular taste, spirit or beer.

  • Special themes and occasions LTOs lend themselves well to special events, like jazz festivals, or annual dates, like Halloween. Black Lagoon plans to open nine international, Halloween-themed pop-ups in October, including one in Toronto. But a full-on immersive experience isn’t always necessary: a unique drink crafted for a specific date or social or cultural observance, like Halloween, Pride Month or Christmas, can have a surprising impact.
  • Seasonal flavours Guests are looking for authentic experiences, and that means seasonal and local flavours. According to Kerry Digest, lemon was the top flavour for European LTOs in the summer of 2022. Strawberry was second, with chocolate in third place—a fine balance between refreshment and indulgence.
  • Premium instead of discount As consumers look ahead to a year of inflation and economic uncertainty, they want to use their banked savings wisely. They’re looking for chances to experience luxury instead of the usual run-of-the-mill. LTOs are a perfect opportunity to introduce high-quality brands or drinks.

Classes and Courses

During the pandemic, the adoption of online education exploded. And not merely in schools. In need of entertainment, customers took cooking and mixology courses by the thousands. Establishments that would never have previously conceived or considered the ideas found themselves creating cocktail kits and recording or leading webinars designed as much to help guests interact as to teach them how to mix a specific drink.

That desire to learn still exists, as do the online tools to make it possible. The potential to move those classes in-house is now a bonus.

Classic Cocktails

While classic cocktails never really left the scene, they are currently having a strong resurgence. While perpetually seeking novelty, consumers are also now looking for comfort, and a classic cocktail with a modern twist provides exactly what they’re looking for. In erratic times, guests truly appreciate the relief of drinking something simple and straightforward. In particular, 80’s favourites are in high demand. Bartenders around the world report that tequila-based drinks are seeing a strong revival, and the passion for uniquely flavoured locally distilled gins still burns brightly.

At the same time, many people became amateur mixologists for fun during the pandemic. They purchased cocktail kits, watched webinars, and took online classes to develop and then improve their skills. Now this group has developed a depth and breadth of appreciation for both techniques and tastes. They know their stuff. When this knowledgeable cohort visits a new or favourite drinking establishment, they want to be wowed. 

According to Bacardi, the discerning palates of these accomplished home mixologists are sparking a rise in premiumization across spirit categories. The spirits segment is expected to grow 12.5 per cent in 2023, a swell driven largely by premiumization, as demand volume continues to decline overall. Premium mixers are also on the rise, as consumers increasingly prefer more natural, and even organic additions to their drinks.

Low and No

The low and/or no alcohol trend shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. In fact, the demand for non- and low-alcoholic drinks is steadily growing. In Canada, 24 per cent of guests have tried low and no alcohol options while drinking on premise— that’s a three per cent increase over three years. spiritsEUROPE claims the category currently occupies three per cent of the total European alcohol market, and predicts a staggering 31 per cent increase in volume by 2024.

Part of the increase could be linked to a larger worldwide trend: the widespread increase of interest in health in general. Not surprising, there’s nothing like a pandemic to galvanize large populations into making healthier life decisions. For instance, another ingredient consumers now want less of in their drinks is sugar. In the end, the trend boils down to choice, and today’s customers want all the options. 

Part of the increase could be linked to a larger worldwide trend: the widespread increase of interest in health in general. Not surprising, there’s nothing like a pandemic to galvanize large populations into making healthier life decisions. For instance, another ingredient consumers now want less of in their drinks is sugar. In the end, the trend boils down to choice, and today’s customers want all the options. 

The spirits segment is expected to grow 12.5 per cent in 2023, a swell driven largely by premiumization.

Guests want to be able to enjoy an evening out with friends or colleagues without everything that comes along with alcohol. They might not be drinkers at all, or deciding to lessen their intake temporarily, or simply be interested in trying something new. They want to participate, to take advantage of all the care and craft bar staff put into their cocktail creations, and they want the ability to opt out of high ABV levels. 

It helps that the marketplace for low and no alcohol offerings has dramatically improved in recent years. When Ben Branson launched Seedlip Spice in London, England in 2015, it was the first major alcohol-free liquor on the market. Now there are hundreds of choices, even thousands, including wines, beers, spirits and pre-packaged alcohol-free/reduced cocktails. Bar staff are spending serious time and effort to create inspired low- and no-ABV options for patrons all around the globe. Perhaps we’ll finally be able to move away from the term ‘mocktail’ for good.

Transformational Technology 

Some trend-driven forms of technological invention aren’t especially well suited to the bar and beverage scene. NFTs, for instance, are not the most natural fit: the purchase of a unique virtual asset does not compare to the reality of drinking an ice-cold beer, a perfectly paired wine or an exceptionally mixed cocktail. But that doesn’t mean digital transformation has left bars behind. 

Instead, technological adaptations have improved other areas of the sector, notably in ordering and delivery, where drinking establishments are following the path taken by restaurants a few short years ago. COVID-19 also unleashed a wave of e-commerce, as operators who could not open to the public rapidly created new ways to sell their wares. While less edgy than the fragile bubbles of crypto and NFTs, e-commerce in restaurants and bars is equally transformative, and likely of more long-term use. 

Demonstrating the same kind of nimble creativity that leads to extraordinary beverages, drinking places also turned to technology to deliver cocktail kits, and to teach online classes and courses. In-house technological innovations are advancing the spread of self-service systems. With an eye on health and safety, such systems will continue to be of use in the future. Special time and labour-saving innovations like Suntory’s highball machine continue their march into bars around the world. On the consumer side, there are a plethora of apps to help find specials and bargains or even to track drinking habits for health or financial reasons.

Coffee and Tea

When the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in March 2020, the shutdowns that immediately followed affected the sellers of coffee and tea like everyone else. But after the initial chaos, a sense of routine established itself among newly remote workers, and coffee and tea sales had an extraordinarily rapid and powerful comeback. 

The term “coffee break” took on a new and profound meaning, as people working from home could access coffee and tea to go. People still needed their caffeine fixes, even if they consumed their beverages outside or at home. Sales have leveled out now but remain at a higher level.

In addition, as part of the larger health-minded lifestyle, consumers began looking for low-caffeine options, meaning sales of low- and no-caffeine choices are also up. The U.S. remains the main destination of coffee sales, with Germany second, but sales across Asia continue to rise steadily.

That said, tea is still the world’s second most popular drink (water is in first place). More than three billion cups of tea are drunk every single day, and annual tea consumption around the globe is more than 40 million litres. China is the world’s largest producer of tea, followed by India, Kenya, and Sri Lanka. Turkey is the world’s largest per capital consumer. 

The search for international tastes extends to coffee and tea, especially among millennials. Buttered coffee persists, and both coffee and tea are making their way into cocktails around the world. Sales of iced drinks are on the rise as temperatures increase, particularly in cities—Europe, for instance, suffered through a dramatic and dangerous heat wave.

Such extreme weather events are likely to cause some volatility in coffee and tea production around the globe. The International Coffee Association, which produces monthly reports on global coffee exports, warns there may be some unpredictability in supply if severe weather events persist. 

Couples talking

A Place to Be

Shaped by neighbourhoods and informed by larger cultural imperatives, bars have different atmospheres around the world. But in one respect they are the same: they offer an important ‘third place’ for people to meet, one where customers can relax, have a drink and either unwind or energize themselves. And today, guests around the world are looking for the same things from their favourite drinking establishments: adventure, comfort, luxury, choice and above all, environmental sustainability. 

After so long apart, people are looking to make their now-treasured evenings out into full-fledged occasions, and bars can be ready to help. With seasonal drinks, experiential classes, and cutting-edge technology and processes, exclusive drinking establishments can provide a sense of novelty and adventure for their guests. Exclusive and limited offers, premium options for special occasions, and a concentration on classic recipes offer extra luxury, comfort and value.

There’s no denying that times have been tough. The resilience and innovation of bar operators and staff around the world provided many new ways for guests to enjoy libations even during stringent shutdowns. Now they stand ready to provide enjoyment and experience in equal measure, with an eye on a sustainable future for all.

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