Waitrose has identified a number of key drinks trends from 2020, which it predicts will escalate into 2021.

In the Waitrose Food and Drink Report 2021 the retailer said formats and a return to old favourites were noticeable trends this year, while in 2021 we can expect to see a rise in the popularity of lesser-known wine regions and grape varieties as well as more exotic spirits and unusual flavour combinations.

Jamie Matthewson, Waitrose Wine Buying Manager, said sherry and English wines are also set to be popular drinks in 2021.

He said: “Martinis with a sherry rinse, the rise of sweet sherry and a world of food matching delights from salty cured meats to rich, indulgent desserts – sherry is seeing a steep incline in popularity.

“Interestingly, people seem to be rediscovering the classic or traditional styles of Manzanilla, Amontillado and Oloroso – where previously it was all about sweet cream sherries.”

He also noted the quality of the 2019 vintage of English and Welsh wine is “the best we’ve ever seen”.

He said: “This, combined with the increase in popularity of English and Welsh reds – particularly lighter styles – make a bumper year for home-grown wine. Still wines from 2019 are in stock now, while fizz will take a few more years, so keep an eye out!”

Other trends for 2021 include a continued interest in alcohol-free drinks, flavoured vodkas and lesser-known grapes.

Matthewson said: “Around 18% of us plan to continue trying more low-alcohol or alcohol-free drinks or ‘mocktails’ to reduce alcohol consumption, rising to a third of all 18-24 year-olds. Sales at Waitrose corroborate this trend, with low and no sales up 22% year on year. New additions include a sparkling wine, IPA and stout, broadening the range of non-alcoholic versions of our favourite beverages even further.”

Matthewson said in flavoured spirits, vodka has become the latest spirit of choice. He said: “Without the heady botanicals of gin, it is amazingly versatile in a wide range of homemade cocktails. Fun flavours like fir, rhubarb and marmalade mean the possibilities are endless.”

In terms of grape varieties Matthewson said Spanish Albarino (or Alvarinho if from Portugal) is going from strength to strength, and “will have its truly mainstream moment in 2021”. He added: “Primitivo also shows no signs of slowing in its meteoric rise.”

Pierpaolo Petrassi MW, Head of Drinks at Waitrose, also pointed to the growing interest in new packaging formats.

He said: “Consumer awareness of the ethical credentials and sheer convenience of alternative formats has never been more prevalent.

“Lockdown saw people reduce the number of visits they made to shops, so larger formats like bag in box were in demand and customers haven’t looked back. Wine in cans, cocktails in post-friendly sachets and bag in box wine have all pushed the boundaries of how people expect to buy good-quality drinks.

“This trend will only continue as we see more innovation in the industry and more customers embracing different types of packaging than ever before.”

In 2021 Petrassi said 20% of consumers plan to continue experimenting with new drinks at home, rising to a third among 18-24 year-olds.

He said: “We also expect to see a rise in popularity of lesser-known wine regions and grape varieties as well as more exotic spirits and unusual flavour combinations.”

Matthewson talks through these trends in more detail in this Waitrose video on the Drinks Retailing News website.