The drinks industry needs to prepare for the rise of the 'Active-ist consumer'

The rise of the “new breed of digitally-sophisticated, socially conscious and sustainability-expectant people” is driving a number of important lifestyle and consumer trends of the future, as identified by William Grant & Sons in its latest report.

This ‘Active-ist Consumer’ is more determined than ever to use their voices, choices and purchasing power to improve their world, according to William Grant.

And the spirits sector is hugely important for this group. In the off-trade spirits account for a quarter of all BWS spend, and the category has added £239 million in incremental value sales in the last year, according to the producer. The spirits sector is now worth £4.2 billion, having grown 6% over the last year. Gin continues to be the fastest growing category (+35.4%), followed by flavoured/ spiced rum (+13%) and American whiskey (+11.5%).

And so although the Active-ist Consumer group is currently still small, it is a powerful growing group which can be defined by three key characteristics: Data Miners, Impact Purchasers and Experience Optimisers.

Marketing director, Caspar MacRae, said: “The Active-ist consumer is carving a world in which machines and humans work together, providing optimum experiences and the opportunity for consumers to track and improve their fast or slow paced lives as they please.

“We also need to innovate – ingredients and experiences – to cater for a breed or consumers who see their food and drink purchases as real sustainable choices that can make a difference to the world, whether that be a straw made of algae or drinking in a ‘philantropub’ that gives back to their local community.

“Finally, to engage these consumers, brands must strive to offer food and drink experiences that are not just luxurious, but that challenge consumers’ minds, bodies and sense.”

The report said the first characteristic of the Active-ist is that they are 'Data Miners', which refers to digitally sophisticated consumers who know how to use online resources to mine personal and brand data to produce the results they demand.

Active-ists are also 'Impact Purchasers' because they “recognise the power of their wallets and wifi connections” and they use this to transform their decisions into a force for social good. They have no intention of not consuming but they are aware that they need to become less of a drain on the planet.

And finally this consumer is also an 'Experience Optimiser', according to the report. So they expect brands to help them optimise their health, work-life balance and experiences.

Translating this to the drinks industry, William Grant predicts we will see an overhaul of drinks packaging with consumers consciously starting to avoid fossil-based plastics, particularly single-use products. Renewable plant-based packaging such as cellulose, sugar cane and kelp, will become more prevalent.

The report also notes that brands that trigger more sophisticated emotions can deepen relationships with their audiences.

And brands need to adopt transparency, according to William Grant. As an example the company recently launched Discarded, a vermouth which uses the waste product (cascara) from coffee farming.

The report notes: “By the 2020s, the concept of using almost all waste to create desirable eating and drinking options will become mainstream.”

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