Welcome to Business Intelligence – Alcohol (Beer and Spirits), the sixth of Zenith’s Business Intelligence reports, which analyse the advertising, business and consumer behaviour trends shaping different categories.

Alcohol is a difficult category to generalise about: traditions and expectations about drinking alcohol vary widely from country to country, as does the role it plays in socialising and family life. In all markets, though, the alcohol category has suffered from huge disruption from the coronavirus pandemic, much more than the average category. Governments identified venues of public drinking – bars, restaurants, nightclubs and so on – as particularly likely to help spread the virus, and many subjected them to special measures to close them down or limit their operations.

The end of public drinking meant that drinks companies suddenly had to find a new route to market, supplementing retail sales with new direct-to-consumer and e-commerce operations. It also meant they had to rebuild their brand experience, centred on nights in rather than nights out. Brand experience has been the key to sales growth in the past, by encouraging consumers to trade up to higher-quality drinks instead of drinking more. It will be again as the industry starts to recover in 2021.

Consumers have new expectations, and alcohol brands will have to adapt to increased demand for convenient, ready-prepared drinks; frictionless online delivery; a focus on health and responsible drinking; and more environmentally healthy production and distribution processes. The drinks industry of 2023 will look very different to the industry of 2019.

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