Drinks gifting trends for 2021

Luxury and sustainability both feature in the world of gifting this year, as consumers look to treat each other while being kind to the planet, finds Lucy Britner

“It’s no surprise that this year consumers will want to treat themselves and their loved ones more than ever during the festive season,” says Ian Macleod Distillers managing director UK, Neil Boyd. “We’re expecting to see lots of family reunions, generous gifting, and perfect occasions to enjoy premium drinks such as gin and whisky.”

And it looks like “premium” is well and truly on the cards. Citing Kantar data, Boyd says there are 4.1 million shoppers who buy spirits as gifts every year.

“It’s important for brands to provide something premium during the festive season, as this is when we see consumers willing to spend that little bit more,” he adds.

If £140 counts as “that little bit more”, consumers might be interested in the company’s Edinburgh Gin “drinkable wreath”, created in partnership with London florist Wild at Heart. The wreath features baubles filled with herbs, fruits and spices – including bayleaf, crystallised ginger, cinnamon, clementine, and dried apple – and it’s delivered with a bottle of Edinburgh Gin’s Christmas release.

Kitted out

Curated cocktail kits as well as wine tasting kits will also be popular this Christmas, as the trend for at-home drinking continues.

“We believe that bar-quality cocktails should be accessible, affordable and memorable,” says Stephen Moore, founder of Moore House Cocktail Company. The company’s range of RTD cocktails, which includes a Margarita and a Negroni, comes in single-bottle gift packs as well as a “build-a-box” of three bottles in a tasting flight – including a free shaker.

In the wine world, London wine bar chain Unwined has launched seasonally curated “in-a-box wine experiences” to enjoy at home. The first in the range celebrates everything alpine – cold-climate wines and alpine cheeses. The Unwined Experience Kit starts at £65 and includes three wines, three cheeses, an aperitif or digestif and snacks. The kits also feature pairing and tasting guides, along with online videos from Unwined co-owners Kiki Evans and Laura Aitken.

Across town, natural wine specialist Shop Cuvée has put together the Christmas Santa Sack (£75). Described as the ultimate natural wine gift, the Santa Sack includes: a Pocket Negroni, a special-edition red tote bag, red wine and sparkling wine selected by the team, a Shop Cuvée mulled wine with a limited-edition cup, a bar of chocolate and a tin of Perelló olives.

Online appeal

There’s no doubt retailers and producers that champion ecommerce will continue to reap the rewards of habits learned over the past 18 months.

“Lockdown taught us the value of a colourful online offering,” says Kent-based Copper Rivet Distillery’s co-founder Stephen Russell. He highlights the distiller’s gift packs, including a Gin & Jigger Christmas Cracker (£10), which contains 10cl of Copper Rivet’s Dockyard gin and a copper mixing jigger.

Personalisation is also a key trend for online retailers. Chris Sadler, co-founder of Worcestershire’s Wildjac Distillery, says ecommerce operators can “take advantage of consumers’ preference for bespoke gifting by stocking products which offer personalisation as an option”.

Tottenham-based Pirate’s Grog, for example, offers a personalised wax-sealed scroll as part of its three miniatures gift set. The set comes in a wooden box containing three Pirate’s Grog rums – Five Year, No 13 and Spiced – with information about each of the rums and more about the company’s story.

Direct-to-consumer pre-mixed cocktail company NIO has also stepped up its Christmas game with a pre-mixed Christmas cocktail box. The beauty of DTC sales also lies in the data that is available. NIO general manager UK Richard Sager says: “We know that a very significant part of our custom is for gifting, which is why we’ve curated a broader Christmas gifting collection page.”

Sustainable Santa

Now more than ever, the world of premium goes hand in hand with sustainability - the days of non-recyclable secondary packaging are numbered, while gifting with a secondary purpose continues to strike a chord.

In November, drinks giant Bacardi announced that its gift packs will contain 50% less plastic than last year.

“We are using 50% less plastic in our total number of gift packs across all our brands this year versus last year,” a spokesperson tells Drinks Retailing. “To achieve this 50% cut, in some cases there has been a reduction in the amount of plastic in the gift pack and in other cases the pack is now 100% plastic-free.”

In the UK, Bombay Sapphire, Bombay Bramble and Grey Goose gift packs are among the brands included in the initiative, which, overall, will remove 147 imperial tons of single-use plastic annually, the company says. The target is to remove 100% of all single-use plastic from its gift packs and point-of-sale materials by 2023.

Whisky brand Nc’nean is becoming more and more well known for its sustainability credentials, including its net zero status and its organic products. This Christmas, the company’s gifting line-up includes The Whisky Six gift set – a bottle of organic single malt Scotch, two 100%-recycled glass tumblers, two Fever-Tree soda waters, and a grow[1]your-own garnish mint seedstick (£74.95).

Environmentally friendly gifts will only become more important. Wildjac’s Sadler says stocking “recyclable, biodegradable, refillable – even plantable – products will pay off”. He mentions that his products come with seedsticks. “We are in the process of updating our labelling to include a QR code so that consumers can request a more substantial wildflower grow set – it’s our way of helping everyone improve their own environment and reducing waste from ‘gift with purchase.” The distillery’s gifting offer includes a 5x5cl Pick and Mix box, which features a choice of any Wildjac spirit, including Honey Spiced rum, Natural dry gin and Citrus vodka, as well as a gin-specific box.

As sustainability becomes a mainstream focus, new companies dedicated to the cause are springing up. Take Collectivino, which launched in September with the aim of “offering ethically-minded wine drinkers the opportunity to ‘drink more responsibly’ through a carefully curated range of exceptional quality wines that won’t cost the earth”.

Martin Stead, Collectivino’s co-founder, highlights the company’s range of climate-positive gifts, including wine, tastings and even carbon offset purchases that support Collectivino’s reforestation programme.

“Collectivino is the perfect supplier for corporate gifts this festive season, enabling companies to communicate their sustainable values while also offering a high-quality gift experience for employees, all produced and distributed responsibly, at an accessible price,” adds Stead.

Besides supporting climate initiatives, companies are looking at the sustainability of the trade, with innovations that support industry charities. William Grant & Sons’ Monkey Shoulder whisky brand, for example, has released Cards For Hilarity (£25), a “spirit-lifting multi-player game, that is sure to make you laugh like a monkey”. All profits from game sales will go to trade charities The Drinks Trust and Scotland’s The Ben.

TIPS FOR RETAILERS

“Ensure your premium bottles are well merchandised, promoted and clearly positioned in the store. Some shoppers may require advice, so arm your team with a handy list of key wines for gifting to make suitable recommendation based on budget and taste preferences.” - Jo Taylorson, head of marketing & product management at Kingsland Drinks

“Review your range regularly in the run-up to Christmas and select brands offering a point of difference: a sustainability angle; innovative, eco-friendly packaging; standout label; or just thinking slightly differently and creatively.” - Julian Howard, off-trade controller, Ten Locks

“To consumers, gifting is treating – it’s those extra touches we wouldn’t usually buy ourselves. So, if people are buying some craft rum as a gift, ensure the corresponding barware is on the same shelf – this also makes for a more appealing visual display.

“Consumers love stories. If you’re selling products with an interesting backstory, tell this in store. Use shelf barkers, QR codes – and staff – to tell the story and engage customers.” - Chris Sadler, co-founder, Wildjac Distillery

“Make sure to keep seasonal gift bags close to the wine bottles for those last[1]minute gifts, when people need to pick up a bottle of wine for their friends and colleagues, or when their child simply cannot enter the classroom on the last day of school without getting their teachers a gift.” - Caitlin Barker, marketing assistant, Continental Wine & Food

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