Capitalising on home cocktails

18 February, 2021 by Brydie Allen

One of the biggest booming trends that really took off during 2020 and differing stages of lockdown was the home cocktail trend, which saw consumers explore the spirits category through cocktails. 

With the on-premise locked down and then otherwise operating in a restricted capacity, many consumers looked to recreate the cocktail experiences from the venues they loved in the comfort of their own homes. The increase in spare time and the fewer options to spend money on ‘going out’, supported by a range of virtual events and activities by brands and retailers alike, meant that consumers often used home cocktails as an opportunity to experiment and try new things. 

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And from here, many consumers have awakened to the possibilities of drinks they can create at home. They have learnt new skills and developed their tastes to the point where the home cocktail movement is no longer seen as a flash-in-the-pan fad. 

Certainly, after the country steadily reopened post-first lockdown, the home cocktail trend has proven its longevity, and may be part of the reason spirits sales have experienced such strong growth in the past year while consumption rates have continued to steadily decline.

Research in the Bacardi 2021 Cocktail Trends Report predicts the movement will continue strongly this year. The report noted that there are now “entirely new drinking cultures” amongst consumers, and that: “The pandemic has made home the focal point of our social lives and changed the eating and drinking landscape forever.”

In our 2021 Industry Leaders Forum too, multiple sources referred to the home cocktail trend and its influence, noting how it changed consumer behaviour and impacted spirit, liqueur and mixer sales, as well as how it shows potential for future appeal. 

The continued popularity of home cocktails opens up a huge opportunity for retailers who can cater to the changing behaviour of consumers. With National Margarita Day coming up next week (February 22) and preparations already in full swing for future spirit-based days like World Whisky Day (May 15), this opportunity increases. 

Avenues for success

Jose Dymenstein, Owner and Director of Melbourne curated liquor store Casa De Vinos, notes how the home cocktail trend can impact business.

“We have seen an increase in spend – the average checkout has gone up around 20 per cent. People are drinking better at home, as it is cheaper than drinking out, and the prepackaged cocktails have been selling well, especially the category of super premium above $15 per can/bottle. People are paying more for quality ingredients,” Dymenstein told National Liquor News. 

He said that shoppers often come in-store looking for specific products to make cocktails after seeing recipes online. And although it’s impossible for a store to hold every product imaginable, some of which may not even be available in Australia, the real opportunity for liquor retailers revolves around educating consumers about recommended servings for different ingredients that are in-store. Combining uniquely valuable educational moments with sales techniques and home occasions is a great way to capitalise on current consumer interests.

“It’s a good idea to run specials on World Whisky Day, Margarita Day, etc, but you need to create a sales campaign for a few days over social media and advertising boards to generate awareness,” Dymenstein said.

“For example, advertise for a whole week that because of Margarita Day, over the weekend you will have 10 per cent off all tequila. The other approach for online shops would be to do a flash sale of a category validating the discount with Margarita Day.”

The Bacardi report also predicts some areas of growth that present other possible avenues of success for the savvy retailer. 

It says: “Cocktail classes and kits have seen huge success via highly visual platforms with vast audience reach, such as Instagram. The appeal of this DIY approach is echoed in data from Nielsen CGA, which shows that 40 per cent of consumers are interested in make-at-home cocktail kits, followed by bottled pre-made and grab-and-go options (both 37 per cent).”

This, as well as the prediction that “cocktail gift packs are set to be big in 2021,” shows that retail methods that support easy home cocktail experiences will likely deliver great results.

The drink day occasions

If you were to look up all the drinks-related novelty holidays there ever was, you would have an incredibly full calendar and one that would become impossible to keep up with. Thus, marketing every day under the sun makes promotions lose their lustre and excitement, an element that is core to the continued boom of the home cocktail trend. 

A great strategy can be to choose drink day occasions that incorporate different drinks trends. National Margarita Day, for example, is poised for popularity not only because of the home cocktail trend, but also due to the rising growth of tequila and classic cocktails (or classic cocktails with a twist).

Mungo Gilchrist, CEO of Spirits Platform, said the company is leveraging these trends with the promotion of the original Cointreau Margarita. 

“As measured by IRI, the tequila category in Australia grew +25 per cent in the past 12 months and in excess of +30 per cent in the latest quarter. Moreover, retail value is growing even faster than these volume growth rates,” Gilchrist told National Liquor News. 

“This growth should be seen in the context of buoyant demand for spirits as a whole – especially in retail sales channels – however the Tequila growth numbers are particularly impressive and the growth rate is only accelerating.

“The growth of tequila in Australia is matched by an upsurge in the popularity of the Margarita, which is by far the most popular tequila cocktail. The original Margarita recipe is a combination of tequila, Cointreau and lime juice, served in a salt-rimmed glass.

“The long-time staple drink of Mexican restaurants worldwide, the Margarita is now being enjoyed across a much wider range of venues and even more from the growth of at home cocktails since the onset of COVID-19.”

Dymenstein said in the past year, tequila and Mezcal have been among the categories with the highest demand at Casa de Vinos in the past year (outdone only by single malt whisky which is one of the store’s specialties as the 2021 Icons of Whisky Online Retailer of the Year). 

Similarly, the Bacardi report describes how classic cocktails are enjoying record growth when it comes to the tequila category, along with the gin category. 

It says: “The monotony of lockdown life is driving people to experiment with classics, seeking out fun twists on staples they know they can rely on. According to bartenders, almost two in five consumers are interested in classic cocktails with a twist.”

Tips for Margarita Day

This article has mentioned just two of the many drink days on the calendar – one that can capitalise on the home cocktail trend and one that capitalises on an increased focus on spirits in general. In the upcoming March issue of National Liquor News, we’ll explore World Whisky Day further, but for now, here are some hot tips for National Margarita Day. 

  • Tell the story: Spirits Platform recommends embracing the history of the Margarita, understanding the origins of the drink and taking shoppers on that journey too. 
  • Educate: Help shoppers learn about the cocktail and its ingredients – how to make it, how the ingredients work together and how to best serve it.
  • Get creative: Build on those elements of education to encourage consumers to explore twists on the classic. After all, experimentation is at the heart of the home cocktail trend.
  • Upsell: Bacardi predicts premium and above spirits for use in cocktails will grow market share, so don’t be afraid to tout the benefits of higher end ingredients. Customers are also increasingly looking for cocktail convenience, so are more likely to also be interested in buying cocktail making accessories or packs. 

 

 

In addition to these tips, Josh O’Brien, winner of the La Maison Cointreau competition for Australia and Asia Pacific, gives some Margarita serving advice below that might be useful.

  • “Always use a chilled glass. No point making a cold drink and then putting it in a warm glass. 
  • “Use fresh lime juice. Just like cooking, using fresh ingredients is always the best way to get the perfect outcome. 
  • “Margaritas are all about fun, don’t take shaking too seriously, we all pull funny faces. 
  • “And finally, margaritas are one of the easiest drinks to start making variations with. Try adding some fruits and spices to really make it your own.”