Green, booze-free, disrupted. Welcome to the future

Chris Losh

Chris Losh

02 July 2019

The future of the drinks and hospitality industries is likely to be greener, less boozy and more varied than ever. Those are the key findings from the Future’s Insights seminar at this year’s Imbibe Live.

Our panel of expert predictors foresaw an era where bars and restaurants will continue to operate as multi-function outlets.

‘We’ll see bars that are not bars, in art galleries, for instance,’ said Will Rowe of the insights agency Protein. ‘There are no rules any more. Venues will offer coffee, brunch and cocktails depending on the time of day.’

Rowe also pointed out that Generation Z – the generation after Millennials – are a lot less interested in alcohol as a social lubricant. Over half are drinking less or have stopped drinking entirely, though this does offer some opportunities.

‘The non-alcoholic space will see premiumisation,’ said Ara Carvallo, portfolio director of Distil Ventures. ‘The switch from soft drinks to beautiful non-alcoholic cocktails.’

Yet the biggest trend foreseen by all of the panel was the rise in the importance of sustainability to customers – a trend that is moving so fast among the general public that both the drinks industry and the hospitality world are struggling to keep up.

‘Businesses will have to be more transparent about their carbon footprint,’ said Carvallo. ‘People will see it as a factor determining purchase, just like price. Imagine two Manhattans, one with a carbon index of 0.25kg of CO2 and one with 0.1kg. Which would you choose?’

All could foresee a future where a product’s carbon footprint was as routinely recorded as its price, abv and ingredients.

‘Generation Z are the ones doing the future strikes and Extinction Rebellion,’ said Jacob Briars, Bacardi’s global advocacy director.  ‘They are justifiably pissed off with what future generations have done over the last 30 years, despite having information about what we are doing to the planet.’

The speed with which the War on Straws became a much wider War on Plastic suggests that this battle is only just beginning.

‘These things have come around very quickly,’ said Briars. ‘People are going to ask ‘what did you know and what did you do?’ We’re one and a half years into a five year plan to remove all plastic from our supply chain at Bacardi. When we started that we were ahead of consumers, but now I feel we’re slightly behind. It’s moving so fast it’s going to upend the industry.’

In a world where blockchain makes the origins of all products traceable and carbon indexing could provide an accurate measure of the harm being done to the environment, it may no longer be possible to expect to offer ice 365 days a year or stock spirits from all over the world.

‘Pension funds are moving from carbon to no-carbon funds,’ said Carvallo. ‘There’s a big shift in investment to sustainability. My worry is that the industry might be too slow.’

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