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The Alcohol Category in 2022: There’s Never Been a Better Time to Celebrate

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It’s been a rollercoaster ride for the world of alcohol in the last two years. Kim Walker & Kev Chesters from Harbour Collective look at how the alcohol category is perfectly placed to help us all remaster the art of celebration in 2022

The Alcohol Category in 2022: There’s Never Been a Better Time to Celebrate

Picture Credit: cottonbro

Remember how we used to celebrate the milestones in life pre-Covid?

New baby? Get a bottle of wine from the year they were born.

Engagement? Send a bottle of champagne to toast their good fortune.

Christmas? Buy every man in your family a bottle of whisky with a personalised label.

Random Thursday? Well, it would be rude not to celebrate that it’s almost the weekend, with a few Aperol Spritzes after work.

Alcohol was often a staple of how we marked the moment. In most cultures, in many parts of the world, throughout the year.

Our ability to celebrate got a little blurry there for a while during Covid. As the definitions between work and pleasure, day and night, week and weekend blurred during lockdowns; we stopped celebrating both the big and the little moments in life.

Countless birthday parties, weddings and Christmas celebrations were cancelled. Well, unless you were in Downing Street. As a result, we have lost some of our connection with the power of social ritual and ceremony.  

It’s not that we didn’t want to celebrate. We just found it harder to demarcate the moments that matter. A trend that still continues. According to a recent study, 70% of US professionals who worked from home during Covid depressingly now say they regularly work weekends [1]. 

Any skill that goes for months without practise gets a bit rusty. And for whole cohorts of Gen Z, who are predicted will make up more than 60 percent of luxury spend by 2026 [2], they haven’t even yet mastered the art of celebration as adults, in the way previous generations did. Maybe we haven’t forgotten entirely but maybe we’re just a bit anxious about how to get back into celebrating again? 

Post pandemic, there is a 25% decrease in desire to visit bars [3]. Yet 61% of young US adults reported feeling 'serious loneliness' during the pandemic [4]. Does this disconnect provide opportunity for the alcohol category to lead the way in remastering the art of celebration? 

If celebrating is like riding a bike, can alcohol brands act as our stabilisers, whilst we get back up to peak celebrating skill levels?

The alcohol category was turned on its head by Covid, perhaps more than any other. On trade moved to off trade overnight. Hospitality became home-spitality. Cocktails and cocktail bars became cocktail kits and DIY home bars in the shed at the end of the garden.  

Yet for all the lows, there were a number of highs for the alcohol category. Globally 43% of individuals reported an increased drinking frequency during the pandemic [5]. RTD cocktails saw a rise of 131% in the off-trade [6]. Global E-commerce boomed and is expected to continue to grow by 66% by 2025 [7].  

In order to continue these alcohol growth trajectories as we start to venture out of our front doors and adjust to new ways of being together again; the biggest opportunity for alcohol brands appears to be to help us to reconnect. To learn again how to celebrate the familiar rituals of old and to master the creation of new celebration rituals, relevant for the new now.

Here are three tips for any alcohol marketeer grappling with how to make the most of this post-Covid celebration opportunity.

Firstly, celebrate the familiar. Communicate the power of the rituals that were associated with your brand pre-Covid. The ones people cherish and miss. Whilst the place and pace of celebrating has changed during Covid; the role of alcohol brands to enhance celebrations in any space is perhaps more important than ever, delivered with aplomb and panache.

Secondly, create new celebration rituals in a post-Covid world. Make the most of trends that were already burgeoning, like the daytime drinking brunch occasion, which massively accelerated in 2022. Ensure your brand is ready for new celebrations. Especially for a new audience, who have missed out on so many of the formative social rituals of becoming an adult.

Finally, celebrate where your audience are at. In a world where we don’t have to and don’t want to travel as much, focus on creating occasions in the home. Post-Covid celebrations may not find always themselves in the luxury of on trade hospitality but rather the intimate surroundings of the home. And need be no less luxurious. As Ellie Pithers from Vogue said, “The next stage of showing your good taste is now extended to your home."

Time to pop some corks and make celebrations happen in the on and off trade worlds of the future. Cheers!

Kev Chesters and Kim Walker are strategy partners of Harbour Collective.

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Harbour Collective LTD, Wed, 15 Jun 2022 11:36:13 GMT