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The great moderation? Not for cocktails

Oli Fenton Associate Director 14/04/2023

One of the most written-about trends in drinks is moderation among the youngest audience – Gen Zs – and many see this as a reason to predict a decline across the alcohol category generally over the next few years.

But cocktails are in rapid growth. Savanta’s BrandVue Drinks survey – which has been tracking behaviours, attitudes and usage across categories and 350+ brands daily since 2019 – indicates that 15% of the UK public bought a cocktail in August 2022. That’s 7 million people altogether and a rise of 5% points (or over 2 million buyers) since December 2019, with growth driven by – yes, you’ve guessed it – Gen Zs in particular. In fact, almost one in three (27%) Gen Zs bought a cocktail in August 2022, only 20% did in 2019.

This has happened for several reasons:

  • Availability in the off-trade

    The popularity of ready-to-drink and premixed cans has rejuvenated cocktails in the off-trade and widened their occasion set to include on-the-go moments. According to BrandVue Drinks, 37% of cocktail drinking in February 2023 involved cans/ready-mix – they are now a crucial part of the category.

  • A mature low / no offering

    When low / no alcohol started rising in popularity cocktails had an answer: Mocktails. While not contributing to the growth in alcoholic cocktails, they help introduce popular names to a wider audience and are not a fad – top bars around the world are now respected for the quality of the mocktail section of their menus.

  • Variety

    The versatility of cocktails is another strength – BrandVue Drinks shows that Mojitos are the most popular cocktail in the UK overall but only 28% of cocktail drinkers say they have had one in the last three months – so 72% have had another type of cocktail. The next six most popular cocktails – in order: Espresso Martini, Daiquiri, Pornstar Martini, Margarita and Martini – are all drunk by a similar proportion of cocktail drinkers (one in five): the category has a long list of options to choose from.

    This builds resilience to future trends in the category. One example is that as shorter drinks became more popular, martinis and negronis already existed as respected alternatives to take the category forward.

  • Popularity across subgroups

    We’ve mentioned Gen Z as being a key group behind the category growth, but it is not only down to them – both Millennials (up to 24% in Aug-22 from 14% in Dec-19) and Gen X (up to 16% from 7%) have also sharply increased their cocktail consumption. This suggests a serious category reaching maturity and not a trend that will be replaced by something else in a few years.

The success of cocktails looks set to continue so expect innovation at pace, likely spinning into adjacent categories such as beer. A classic Chelada, anyone?

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