I have been in the beverage and CPG industry for over a couple of decades and during this time there have been some pretty big movements that have established themselves over the years. What makes a movement in the CPG world? In my mind, a fundamental change in consumer preferences for a brand or an emerging category. What comes to mind are brands like Red Bull and the energy drink category, Silk and the alternative milk category, Vitamin Water for enhanced water, Sam Adams and craft beer. Out of the thousands of brands launched across the beverage industry every year, it’s amazing how few “movements” have transpired.
What I find interesting as I study these past movements, is that the “beacan brand” that tips the movement hide among many in the early years. They may have had a good idea, launched, struggled, and battled other early brands with the objective of waiting for the consumer to catch up. The energy drink category for instance. Many people don’t know that Red Bull was launched in the US in 1998. Grinding against the Mountain Dew and Jolts of the world all claiming more energy, however, not quite hitting the consumer cues needed to scale. Today, Energy Drink Category is $16B in the US and continues to grow double digit.
Here is the next movement I’m watching. Non-alcohol alcohol. Yes. ALCOHOL FREE spirits, wine, beer, mocktails, aperitifs. You think I’m crazy? Check out your friends’ social feeds from SXSW this year or the ads from Heineken or Budweiser touting 0% alcohol beers. Find reviews for low/no alcohol wine. Less calories, no hangover…. Healthier, Better for You. Hmmm
The numbers are supporting adoption of this movement. +600% for Spirits, +500% for beer, +300% for wine. Social buzz, on-premise visibility, more menu options.
Why are consumers seeking NON-Alcohol alternatives? Simple, they are healthier. This next generation doesn’t drink like the last couple of generations. Maybe they see the impact Alcohol has had on their parents? Maybe social media has exposed drunk driving more graphically? Maybe there is simply more information regarding the impact of alcohol on your health? In the end, it’s likely all these reasons, even more personal reasons, are leading people to healthier options in this category.
It might be harsh to call Health and Wellness cliché. Probably better to describe it as a recognition that health and wellness is mainstream. Information showing what we put in our bodies are more transparent and great tasting choices continue to emerge. Rather than shopping for indulgent products and choosing healthy options. Shoppers are shopping healthy options and choosing indulgence. The script has flipped.
Like all movements, the early days are messy. Like a few zealots protesting on a street corner, possibly unkempt, clothes from goodwill and maybe lacking a shower, emerging categories can feel that way too. I mean there was an energy drink call Krunk and Crack in the early days. Not that inviting.
We are seeing the same thing today. Some of the early entrants in these non-alcohol categories are a little messy. Maybe the taste is not quite there, labels hard to understand. Is this supposed to taste like Smirnoff? This doesn’t smell like tequila? Is this supposed to be a beer? Don’t be fooled. The consumer is looking for these products and they will find them. I give props to the next generation; they try a ton more products than those before them. If you are a brand, keep at it. If you are a Retailer or Wholesaler, embrace the movement.
What’s also interesting is how undetected movements are in the early days. Or worse, when they threaten the primary brands in a category, how vulnerable they are to the big distillers, brewers and wineries. The only way to compete. DATA. If you are a distributor, losing space to these brands, how do you compete? DATA. Combined with syndicated data, understanding the position of these products is key. AI-Image Recognition is the only way to understand what’s out there.
If experience tells me anything, this movement is about to go mainstream. Likely the next Red Bull is grinding right now on Amazon or in Dubai. I’ll be watching.