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William Grant & Sons’ top consumer trends

William Grant & Sons has identified a new type of spirits drinker – ‘the active-ist consumer’ – in its latest Market Report, in which the group expounds a number of trends driving purchasing decisions in the UK.

The report contains analysis and data to highlight what trends are impacting the UK spirits market, which is now worth £10.5 billion (US$14bn).

“A new movement is on the rise: they are purposeful, they are connected and they are empowered,” Neil Barker, managing director of William Grant & Sons UK and Ireland, said of what the group has dubbed the ‘active-ist’ consumer.

William Grant & Sons UK’s eighth Market Report has shed further light on this notion, claiming such consumers are using their “choices, voice and purchasing power with purpose to drive progression”.

They are “a new breed of digitally-sophisticated, socially-conscious, and sustainability-expectant people,” according to Barker. “They are more willing and determined than ever to improve their world – and they expect the brands and channels they choose to align with their thinking.”

Active-ist consumers, according to William Grant & Sons, share three key characteristics. They are: digitally sophisticated ‘data miners’, ‘impact purchasers’ who use their purchasing decisions as a force for social good, and ‘experience optimisers’.

“Our extensive research and analysis led us to coin the phrase ‘the active-ist consumer’ for a new generation which is incredibly aware of its collective consumer power and its ability to drive change at scale and pace,” said Caspar MacRae, marketing director for William Grant & Sons UK and Ireland.

“From the #MeToo movement to single-use plastics, these consumers are determined to make very different choices to positively impact their world.

“With a very real level of expectation, brands and organisations will need to continuously innovate and adapt their experiences, ingredients and communications to ensure they meet the needs of this very discerning and powerful group.”

William Grant & Sons has identified seven lifestyle trends that offer a “deeper understanding” of the social environment that has led to the creation of ‘the active-ist consumer’. Find out more about them over the following pages.

1. Always optimised

This relates to the idea that consumers are increasingly using “technology to identify products and ingredients that deliver optimal experiences”.

The range of technologies available to consumers today allows them to “use real-time data, rather than their instincts, to strike a balance between health and hedonism, and create optimal eating and drinking regimes”.

William Grant believes this trend will grow over the coming years as “consumers and brands move from tracking to understanding and improving”.

2. Rooted realness

An extension of consumer focus on health is their concern with the ethical ramifications of what they eat and drink.

As more people move to a vegan diet, “manufacturers of plant-based foods are placing an increased emphasis on the flavour, texture and branding of their products”. This, in turn, has infiltrated the drinks industry, with the creation of vegan alternatives and “hyper-local” products.

The report further claims that by 2021, “plant-based food manufacturers will be leveraging technology, venture capital and disruptive retail to reach new mainstream markets”.

3. Multi-sensory masstige

Multi-sensory brand experiences have entered the mainstream, according to William Grant & Sons. These experiences incorporate physical and digital technologies to enable consumers to explore new flavours and concepts.

More research is also being conducted to discover how different vessels, sounds, textures and environments affect taste.

This trend will evolve to become “more high-tech and enable consumers to manipulate flavour”.

4. Dreams of extremes

Following on from ‘multi-sensory masstige’, the ‘dreams of extremes’ trend relates to the notion that “consumers’ expectations around experiences that enhance their social understanding has evolved”. As such, consumers are increasingly looking to be transported “outside their comfort zones”.

William Grant & Sons uses people moving from a weekly Park Run to the Spartan Race, and the Tom Sachs X NikeCraft Space Camp, as examples of them “stretching their physical and mental limits”.

“Consumers are also using eating and drinking to develop a more adventurous taste palate that savours extreme flavours and formats,” according to the report, which further claims nightlife and entertainment experiences will “explore the darker side of human nature”.

5. Augmented crafts

Artificial intelligence is “starting to infiltrate the mainstream”, according to the report, and can already be seen making an impact in the drinks world. Notably, Japan’s Kirin Brewery employs AI to shorten product development.

“In the drinks landscape, we expect that the rise of AI will have implications for bartending careers,” it expands. “By the mid-2020s, AI-enabled robots and automated systems will be able to quickly, and even creatively, mix and serve drinks, themselves becoming the master of craft as they converse with a customer’s personal AI to discover their taste preferences.”

This will mean bartenders can take on the role of ‘master of ceremonies’ in the future, though they will need more training in technology, experience creation and client services.

6. Tangible transparency

Furthering demand for ‘brandsparency’, consumers are increasingly seeking ‘tangible transparency’, asking brands to “share their values and beliefs across every aspect of their business”.

Shoppers “crave new ways to demonstrate their connoisseur credentials and reliably track ingredients and manufacturing processes”.

The report continues: “Brands that capture the imagination of these consumers often use technological innovation to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.” In the future, brands will increasingly use blockchain technology to achieve this, William Grant & Sons predicts.

7. Considered living

This trend refers to the “contradictory” demand for “high speed gratification” and “mindfulness”; that is, optimal convenience but a slower pace of lifestyle.

“As we head toward 2020, consumers’ growing desire to encourage a slower pace in some aspects of their lifestyle is expected to combine with the wish to be sustainable, leading to a radical deceleration in the purchase-and-disposal cycle,” the report expands.

The next decade will see brands walk a difficult tightrope, offering consumers “more convenient delivery options” while also fulfilling a demand for “entertainment experiences that offer relief from their busy lifestyles” – such as “drone drops”.

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