I enjoy trend-watching, but I have to admit over the last few years, I feel that wine consumer trends have been predominantly focused on sustainability, mindful consumption and younger drinkers exploring non-wine options. As important and relevant as these are, do we have something more exciting to look forward to in 2024?
Perhaps it is the insecurity brought on by the state of the global economy and environment as well as a lack of political stability that dampen our trend spirits a little, but what I did find interesting looking at trend reports for the New Year, is the blurring of boundaries – especially between the categories and occasions of food and drink. In Felicity Carter’s article for Meininger, Seven Wine Trends in 2024, she actually calls it the Collapse of Boundaries!
Drink boundaries are blurring as traditional ways of consumption are challenged. No longer are we only drinking bubbly for a celebration, we are popping corks for no reason at all – a trend that we all embrace! In the same way, it is not only about drinking beer when you watch a game – you can watch sport with your wine in a can too. But consumers have so much more to choose from than beer or wine. There has been an explosion of flavours and styles – alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Nowadays, it is much more about what you like than how it has been made. This might scare those of us who are passionate about how beer is brewed or wine is made, but trends are often a bit scary and that is part of their charm. Trends don’t imply the disappearance of a category, they just mean that the traditional borders might become a little blurred and that consumers are exploring and enjoying that new space.
Fusion became a food trend many years ago and in today’s culinary world, such blurring of boundaries between different types of cuisine is almost expected. Asian flavours, for example, stay popular and are interpreted in a Western context all the time, but according to Time’s Food and Drink Trends for 2024, it is about more than just adding some miso to your marinade. Fusion today reflects globalisation and new social identities and more care goes into bringing these elements together. We’ve seen the success of Italian Asian restaurants and Claire Lancaster, head of food and drink at WGSN says, “This new generation of chefs is creating products that reflect their unique, multi-layered cultural identities.” (Read more)
Fusion now also extends to drinks. Purists might frown, but the fact is that we see wine combined and infused with water, fruit, tea, spices… We even see a fusion between food and drinks and we’re not talking soup. The winner of Netflix’s Drink Masters, Lauren Paylor O’Brien predicts culinary integration with drinks. As an example, she combines honey ice cream with a few drops of olive oil in a fizzy whiskey cocktail. Seems the Soda Float is making a return in a more upmarket way…
While the low and no talk predominantly refers to the state of alcohol in a drink, it is a result of the holistic focus on wellness and mindfulness. It is therefore also a trend in the food context where the focus continues to be on vegetables and therefore less meat, leaving the door open for meat substitutes such as mushrooms. While vegan and vegetarian dietary requirements are nothing strange anymore, the boundaries are also blurring between exclusive or occasional preferences. Consumers today often switch per occasion as to whether they choose to have alcohol or red meat, for instance. I believe the choice is what makes the difference. If you can have a sophisticated alternative to wine on an evening out, it might be something to consider even when you are not abstaining from alcohol in general. No longer is cooldrink or water your only option. The same goes for that vegan or vegetarian menu. The choice today is much wider than mushrooms and lentils and even the non-vegetarian might prefer the vegetarian option on the menu. Variety seems to be making responsible consumption much easier.
What does this mean for marketing? Identifying new trends and finding ways to address them are essential to a marketing plan, but perhaps the blurred boundaries make it harder to focus promotional efforts? Our traditional ideas and ways might be challenged but new trends also bring new opportunities. Perhaps in 2024, we’ll see wine sponsoring soccer games and beer ads for Mother’s Day?
When the trend is for boundaries to be blurred and you find yourself in an election year with a lot of coalition talk, it seems we have to be open-minded about collaborations. Remember how successful we were in fusing tourism and wine?!