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The 2018 edition of Imbibe was once again an entertaining afternoon of all things drinks! This year the sun shined, and the ‘Garden’ was a welcome addition – especially with Southern Comfort serving free fried chicken and cocktails!


Here are our top 5 observations from the show:

The ‘Gin Boom’ is going nowhere; And now we have ‘Mixer Wars’


The growing theme over the last few years of Imbibe Live has been more, more and even more gin brands! This year was no exception, with botanicals galore from the well-established to the independents. 

Sipmith showed up in a bigger way than ever before, no doubt as a result of investment from Beam Suntory in the last year, but the big mainstream brands were noticeably absent. However, there was no shortage of gin for sampling and it’s clear that in a sea of gin a unique positioning, striking bottle & label and an engaging story are needed more that ever to stand out. Although it has to be said there is a move away from copper everything, with some of the newer brands such as Gin Bilogico Toscano standing out by pairing back the branding. 

And of course, where there is G you need T. Fevertree may be the ‘best’, as their fully booked Masterclass would suggest, but there are no shortage of premium, and now ultra-premium tonics nipping at their heels. Double Dutch, Three Cent’s, Longtail and The Original Tonic Water were all there; and Schweppes and Britvic each had a larger, if underwhelming, presence. But gold star on this occasion goes to The London Essence Company (not just because they are our Clients!) with their outside Gin Bar which was not only stylish but serving tasty and very popular drinks to a crowd enjoying the sunshine.


The latest take on multi-sensorial tasting


Multi-sensorial tasting is not a new thing, and there have been many, many attempts to reinvent it. The Pernod Beats team (the new name for the Pernod Brand Ambassador network) hosted a popular masterclass using multi-sensorial activities for tasting the Jameson range. Not only was it well executed, but those that took part were wholly engaged, and looked extremely fetching with their headphones and eye masks! Kudos to the team that put this on for knowing that by hosting something so clearly visibly intriguing punters, sorry the trade, just have to stop, ask questions, and take part.


What – there is no alcohol in that spirit?!


With a surge of non-alcoholic ‘adult’ drinks offering coming onto the market it was no surprise to see more players this year at Imbibe Live. 

On the ‘spirits’ side was Sea Arch, Boraggo and Cedar’s, all with their own take on zero alcohol ‘gin’ type liquid. Sampling of these liquids is essential – you just can’t really imagine the taste, or really understand what it is without first tasting, and then having a knowledgeable and passionate person explain to you just what it is you are drinking. And Boraggo got this right. With a well-executed stand, great support printed material to take away, and an engaging team passionate about the liquid. 

And building on the success of last year, the Big Drop non-alco beer team had an impactful presence and curiously good tasting liquid. 

With the categories blurring I am going to mention the growing number of adult soft drinks in this section. Adult sodas, sparkling coconut water, herb drinks….. all with their own botanical back-drop are growing in number.  

This year Imbibe Live recognised the growing trend by hosting a number of seminars dedicated to it. It was a surprise to us that the trade in general seemed to be still largely educated on quality non-alcoholic drinks offerings – so clearly, watch this space!


Free chicken – a winner every time


Southern Comfort had the biggest impact of any spirit at this years Imbibe. Three simple, great tactics to learn from here to ensure great standout and engagement at a busy trade show.

  • Give away food – free chicken ensured not only a very, very tasty smell, but also huge buzz around the bar
  • Give away things, but make them good things – every other head at the show was adorned with a Southern Comfort trucker cap. And those that weren’t sported a pair of yellow Savannah cider sunglasses on them. Indeed, many had both!
  • Be authentic – this particular bar, drinks, food and branding could only have been pulled off well by Southern Comfort; London’s take on the Deep South not only made folk take notice, but I would suggest push them to reconsider this brand.

Cool bars make for cool bars


Some stands go too far, some just don’t go far enough. There were lots of examples of stands that just confused us as to what the brand/product was, and equally as many that looked like they hadn’t really tried.

But those that remembered that they are beverage products and built a trade show home for themselves that felt like a bar, stood out for the right reasons. From a US Liquor store, to a Pol Roger Lodge, there were several examples of bars that people just wanted to sit at, sample drinks and soak up the vibe. And as a crowd attracts a crowd this means high-engagement.



Check out more images from our Imbibe 2018 visit: