Beverage Industry Seems To Be Readying A Lineup Of Summer Drinks For A Younger And Pandemic-Weary Consumer Demographic

As millennials rapidly displace Generation Xers and baby boomers as the biggest spenders in the food and beverage industry, brands are looking for new ways to stay relevant by adapting to their different tastes and habits. Meanwhile, a prolonged pandemic has given rise to its own beverage trends as consumers seek leisure and experiences that they can recreate outside of the traditional bar or restaurant setting.

This summer, consumers might be ready to spend more for bolder flavors, premium ingredients and containers that can go with them on adventures they take.

Subtle Notes Out, Bold Flavors In?

When seltzers began sweeping the market a few years ago, they were capitalizing on demand for gentle, nuanced flavor profiles —  hints of citrus and aromas of melon you found in sparkling beverages like Lacroix Group LACR or hard seltzers like White Claw.

Now, some brands are reportedly differentiating themselves in a crowded seltzer market by moving toward bigger, single-note flavors that are more distinctive but still familiar.

In February, for example, PepsiCo Inc. PEP partnered with Boston Beer Company Inc. SAM to begin slowly rolling out hard Mountain Dew, an alcoholic version of some of the brand’s most successful flavors, to capitalize on this shift toward bolder but still familiar flavors.

The news of the hard mountain dew launch came just months after Boston Beer’s sales of its Truly Hard Seltzer, a subtler seltzer, tanked in 2021.

Similarly, Splash Beverage Group SBEV reported that its sales skyrocket 71% year over year last summer of its Pulpoloco Sangria, the company’s wine cocktail featuring fresh, fruity flavors and bold spices infused in authentic Spanish wines.

The “bold yet refreshing” sangria is sold in eco-friendly and portable packaging, capitalizing on other beverage trends, which makes the company optimistic that this summer will see a similar boost to the brand’s sales.  The new biodegradable cans are made from 8 layers of paper, making them sturdy yet environmentally conscientious. 

Quality and Simplicity In Ingredients

As younger drinkers shift toward drinking less than older consumers, they’re also seemingly placing increased importance on the ritual and indulgence of the experience. That is, when they do drink, they want quality ingredients and beverages that are free of artificial additives. They want distinctive beverages they can savor.

That may be leading to a rise in natural flavor additives and premium ingredients. SALT Tequila, for example, is made from 100% blue agave plants, cultivated for 7 to 10 years before harvesting. Each of the three flavored tequilas uses natural ingredients to infuse those notes of citrus, berry or chocolate. 

On-the-Go Packaging

As temperatures climb, pandemic-weary Americans are clamoring to make up for lost time by getting outdoors and meeting friends for new adventures. A 2022 Trends Report released by Viator revealed that 48% of all bookings made on the site last year were outdoor experiences, a major increase compared to 2019.

The largest growth was seen in water sports, which rose 311% over 2019 levels as well as sailing and boating, which rose 122%. Those trends reveal an interest in experiences that balance adventure with leisure — lounging on the deck of a sailboat as you hop from island to island or relaxing on the beach after an afternoon riding jet skis.  

That uptick in leisurely outdoor adventures is also reportedly driving demand for more portable packaging for premium beverages. Some consumers say they want a sense of luxury and quality but also the convenience of single-serving containers and lighter-weight alternatives to glass bottles. 

The 2021 launch of Copa di Vino, single-servings of premium Oregon wines, hopes to help answer that demand with a 100% recyclable plastic package that comes with a splash-proof lid. The packaging is meant to allow consumers to toss wine in their bags for a hike or beach day without worrying about corkscrews or packing extra glasses. 

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