A few weeks ago, we ventured out to Olympia in West London to visit Imbibe Live. Branded as an ‘innovative and interactive annual exhibition’, Imbibe hosts the best in class of the trade, including the mainstays of the industry alongside newer brands who are just starting on their journey.
The show acts as a great stage for brands of all sizes to show off their products, innovation and for agencies like us to take note of the upcoming trends in the drinks industry. As we wandered around the hall, there were a few key activities that we picked up on:
1. THE MOVE TOWARDS BOTANICALS:
We all love a stereotypical English country garden – and it seems that brands have picked up on this. With the unforeseen growth of botanical gins over the last few years (gin sales were expected to top £1bn for the first time in the UK in 2015*) it makes sense that brands would hop on to this quintessentially British theme. There was an abundance of garden styled bars and flavoured drinks, with Fentiman’s leading the charge with their beautifully set-up bar.
This leads us brilliantly on to…
2. MIXERS – MORE THAN JUST A SUPPORT ACT
None of us were expecting a presence of the soft drink category on this scale. It would seem that the mixers are making a stand: they are more than just an addition to a good gin, they MAKE the perfect cocktail. This mindset was highlighted by the relatively unknown brand ‘Merchant’s Heart’ a new range of drinks by LR Suntory, who brand themselves as ‘spirit enhancers’ rather than a mixer. Stands from Britvic, Schweppes, Fentiman’s & Fever Tree represented the big players in the mixers world – each of them representing their brand in a different, yet impactful way. The newcomers to the category included Thomas Henry (a German brand), Franklin & Sons LTD, and Bottle Green (who, yes, have been around for a while, however this is the first time we’ve seen them positioned as a mixer, rather than a standalone drink).
The main take out from the mass-representation of mixers at what has over the last few years primarily been an alcohol trade show, is that the trend for flavour and origin matter across all aspects of the serve, rather than just the alcohol itself.
Speaking of flavour…
3. FOCUS ON FLAVOUR
From our sensorial work with Teisseire and The Glenlivet, we know that flavour is more than just taste, but for the sake of simplicity let’s just keep this as flavour for now (read our case studies for more information on those two projects if you’re intrigued…).
In addition to the botanical and mixer trends above, it seems that all brands are focusing on flavour. None more so than Stoli vodka, whose exhibition stand massively impressed us. With Brand Ambassadors dressed in lab coats and a set up like a mad scientist’s laboratory, the area drew a large crowd, inviting guests to create their own spin on the Moscow Mule.
This stand exemplifies the new trend for customer engagement through experiences. By letting the customers mix with ingredients they’ve never seen before, or use bar tools they have never used, including a very intriguing smoke machine.
The set up and creativity behind this stall really raised the bar (mind the pun) for all trade show stalls and customer experiential work at the same time.
Overall, Imbibe delivered once again – however this time with a little more variation and range than seen before!