Whether you consider yourself a drinker, sober, or sober curious, the question, “do you want a drink?” is no longer as straight-forward as it used to be.

We are experiencing a renaissance in the world of alcohol. Consumer habits and desires are shifting into new and unfamiliar territories, rapidly changing how we define the experience of drinking. The recent cannabis-alcohol convergence and new wellness-focused mocktails are just a couple of trends that reflect how different consumption will look in the very near future.

You could say that we’re entering a Prohibition 2.0, fueled by consumers craving a better tomorrow. To bring all of these shifting forces to the fore, Interact Boulder, Force brands and The Giannuzzi Group recently gathered together some of the industry’s most “in the know” folks to bring you up to speed on what’s happening, what’s to come, and how we can shape the future of alcohol.

On the consumer mentality

Sober curious does not mean we’re all moving towards teetotalisms. People aren’t completely throwing the baby out with the bathwater. They’re not abstaining completely, they’re simply drinking less and more mindfully. Bar menus are now often divided into high alcohol, low alcohol, and no alcohol. Which category do you see yourself in?

While people are avoiding the buzz, they’re still chasing a feeling. It’s not enough to just be a better-for-you cocktail – it’s about incorporating new age ingredients that still provide a mindset-shift. People are cozying up to the idea of nootropics, CBD, THC, adaptogens, and mushrooms. The functional movement has already hit our daytime beverages, and now has moved into our cocktails and mocktails – the added benefits will not only give you the ‘feels’ in the moment, but get you through to tomorrow as well. Cheers to high vibrations and feeling lit off life, not booze!

Booze beyond the bar. People still crave social interactions and the occasional bender but let’s be honest, we don’t have time to be nursing that hangover all day. The question to ask yourself is: beyond social occasions, how does your product fit into your consumers daily or weekly routine, and what does it suggest about who they are when they’re holding your product in their hand?

On how this impacts marketing

The days of models and bottles are over. With the proliferation of options, consumers now crave a deeper connection to your brand. Whether it’s a belief system, a crafted use occasion/mindset, or even the introduction of a new ritual, substance over sex goes farther these days!

It’s not enough to be on the shelf, you need to meet your consumer where they’re at. In real life, experiences is the now and the future. Red Bull taught us to think big and push limits, even if it means jumping out of a plane from the stratosphere. Create some epic experiences that allow consumers to interact with their brand. Think sensorial: what would your brand’s world look like, smell like, sound like, and be like?

Innovation will be key for survival. The status quo is a moving target, and it seems the bar gets raised on monthly. Take strategic risks and never get too comfortable, because everyone is watching and will be quick to copy. 

Brand-building is more important than ever. Innovation is important, but building a strategic brand is more important than ever. People are more conscious than ever that what they consume says something about who they are. Beautiful branding, once up on a time a nice-to-have, has become table stakes. To build a brand with longevity, today’s ‘need-to-have’ is strong, strategic branding. If you want to get on shelf or become part of your consumer’s Instagram story, investing in branding isn’t a stage to skip.

On how this impacts industry staff

CBD may be red hot, but it’s also got bartenders seeing red. The world of CBD introduces some dangerous territory for bartenders, not only at the federal level but at an education and efficacy level. In a world of misinformation and unbacked claims and promises, bartenders aren’t exactly jumping at the opportunity to serve their beloved customers a CBD cocktail. Keep playing with CBD but don’t expect to order a craft-batched CBD negroni at the bar right away.

While this groundswell is still in its infancy, the big beverage brands are watching. Whether they are launching new beverages that fit the current trends or not, they are meticulously tracking what’s happening to guide future innovations and acquisitions.

We are stronger together. This new category in alcohol is just at its forefront and the rules have not yet been laid. Thought leaders in the beverage universe need to come together to define what the future of booze looks like if we want to be part of it.

Cheers to the future of booze, we are in this together!