Ten 2020 on-trade predictions

Americans are fundamentally changing the way they interact with and consume alcohol-based drinks at bars and restaurants with the result that the US on-trade alcoholic beverage outlook for 2020 is one of dynamic shifts according to Nielsen CGA which has put forward 10 market-moving trends to be aware of as the New Year kicks-off.


The LoNo alcohol trend will expand

Expect to see an increase in spirits with no alcohol in the coming months and year, with a greater variation in products to appeal to different drinkers. On-trade creativity will continue to fuel alcohol-free cocktail menus and bars across the country. The rising popularity of spritz-based cocktails has helped this category grow. New takes on classic drinks may surface, highlighting the emergence of low-alcohol sherries, vermouths and sake options.


Experiential venues will endure

Creating memorable and unique experiences for consumers is an enduring trend that will continue to make waves and move the on-trade market. Game bars, authentic experiences from other global regions, seasonal activities and elevated hotel bars will continue to attract and engage American bar-goers.


Whiskey will widen its appeal

Whiskey manufacturers are rising to the challenge to widen this spirit’s appeal. In the months ahead, expect to see more innovative takes on distilling, non-traditional whiskey mash bills, wood-ageing and distinctly new flavour profiles to attract a broader demographic.


The ‘better-for-you’ movement will breathe new life into vodka 

The ‘better-for-you’ movement will continue to heavily influence new trends in vodka. Expect to see more diet and sugar-free vodka coming to market. Nielsen CGA also foresees an increase in flavoured limited-time offerings reflecting a sharp departure from the distastefully sweet offerings of the past. The new age of vodka will infuse more natural and interesting flavours for changing palates, incorporating Yuzu and Kumquat.


Home-grown will be a differentiator 

Hyper-local will continue to lead the way within beer. The continuing popularity of brewpubs and taprooms has led many consumers to order based on what’s local in the neighbourhood as opposed to what’s local in the city. This continued enhancement of local will prove a challenge for ambitious craft beer brands who want to develop outside of their geographic heartland.


Technology will empower 

Just as technology has empowered consumers across retail, new technology will infuse the on-trade alcoholic beverage space in the coming years to empower consumer choice. This will take the form of iPad menus, more seamless tech-driven payment options and even educational experiences through augmented reality.


The gin and tonic could (finally) have its moment 

Unlike here, gin and tonics have been a relatively silent staple at bars across the US – often overlooked and underserved. However, with increased distribution of premium tonics in the US, lower sugar content of Premium mixers and the social shareability of a perfect cocktail, a path is being cleared for the rise of the gin and tonic. Through a more Premium experience, Nielsen CGA expects gin and tonic to grow in popularity over the next year and finally have its moment in the spotlight.


Tequila faces major turbulence 

Sales of Tequila aren’t suffering but the spirit’s very existence is. Shortages of blue Agave grown in the Tequila region of Mexico are forcing manufacturers to find new sources. In fact some companies are predicting that Tequila production within the next 10 years will be extremely challenging.

With a limit on how much Tequila can be produced in a certain area, companies will increasingly look at other blue Agave products. Outside of Mezcal — demand for which is already growing quickly due to its smoky, earthy flavour coupled with the influence of famous stars — Raicilla, Bacanora, Sotol and Pulque will all find themselves thrust into the spotlight as they’re capable of being produced across Mexico.

Sales of Tequila aren’t suffering but the spirit’s very existence is.

Sales of Tequila aren’t suffering but the spirit’s very existence is.


A fight against oenophobia will ensue 

Oenophobia, defined as the fear of wine, is a fight the wine marketers are ready to wage a creative war against in the coming year. Expect to see a new wave of wine-based products, innovative packaging and marketing rush to attract younger legal drinking-age consumers. As Millennials continue to gravitate toward the hard seltzer category, wine’s relevance and appeal are at risk more than ever.


The variety of hard beverages will rise; seasonal sales may soften 

The meteoric rise of ‘hard seltzers’ made this category one to watch over the past year. Inspired by the universal appeal of hard beverages, Nielsen CGA anticipates an influx of hard teas, Kombuchas, coffees and Agua Frescas into the market. And with this increase in hard beverage offerings consumers may taste-test this market, possibly resulting in softer sales for the hard seltzer category in the coming year.

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