Imbibe Live 2015 the annual show for buyers, suppliers, bartenders, managers and sommeliers in the licensed on-trade, took place this week. Running over two days, the show included keynote speakers, master classes and training sessions.
Almost 200 exhibitors were on-hand offering delegates the chance to sample beers, wines, cocktails, spirits and mixers from around the globe. Here are some of the key trends that we picked up from Imbibe Live 2015.
It’s all about Millennials
For many, Imbibe Live is about meeting drinks producers and distributors. But there were plenty of business-focused sessions too, run from the Liquid Profits room. One of these took a look at one of the pub/bar sector’s prime targets: millennials. Christopher Cooper, founder of Drinkonomics, took a packed seminar through this vital yet fussy audience.
What do millennials look for? The lot. This is an audience seeking provenance, authenticity and quality. They want it new. And now. But it doesn’t end there, as the millennial wants professionalism as well as ethics and morality from brands.
Key of course is messaging. It’s social. It’s visual. It’s instant. Facebook is out, Twitter meh and Bebo is cool (again) apparently. Brands must embrace the conversation and reach out to millennials for their views and feedback.
This was a great session, although some of the assertions were a little broad and lacked any evidence. A minor gripe though…
Cocktails: give the consumer an experience
Another great presentation at Imbibe Live looked at cocktails and the theatre behind them. It’s no longer about quietly and quickly making the drinks. There’s a real opportunity to drive more engaged, active and loyal customers through your cocktail offer.
Cocktails are about fun, education and passion. Wow them? Definitely. Involve them? Absolutely. Why? It keeps them coming back for more and more.
Cocktails were evident elsewhere too with mix-offs, tastings and master classes for bar tenders.
It’s all about gin…
If there was a star of Imbibe Live it was craft gin. You couldn’t turn around without bumping into a new distillery. Some producers were showcasing vodka but they were few and far between. Gin is where it’s at: London dry gins, sloe gins, rhubarb gins and not-quite gins.
What was evident from many of the producers was the sophistication and thought that had gone into these brands. Many of the gins themselves were fantastic. Yet the attention to branding, labels, the story, provenance were equally impressive.
Whether it was relatively established brands like William Chase or Sipsmith through to the newer kids on the block Warner Edwards, Sibling Gin or Becketts, this is a category attracting entrepreneurs by the bucketful.
Bigger brands were notable by their absence
Aside from the brewery/pub co big boys Greene King, Heineken & Marston’s and stands from Kopparberg & Stolichnaya (plus one or two more) many of the brands on display were from smaller producers.
What can we take from that? That the distributors and producers are confident in the growth potential for newer, better products. Imbibe Live isn’t just a jolly for the trade. This year showed that there’s a savvy sector invigorated by the potential of new challenger brands, old favourites and new ways to excite today’s drinkers.