It’s no secret that this year has changed a lot of things; the pace of our everyday, work-life balances, the amount and ways in which we socialise and in turn, our approach to drinking.

With Government guidelines enforcing a temporary way-of-life that speaks of less group interactions and limited time in pubs, bars and restaurants, you’d be justified in thinking that 2020 has caused substantial damage to the alcohol industry. And yet, figures show the opposite – numbers are rising and our national drinks spending is increasing.

In following the direction to stay at home, we have all embraced a typically British routine of survival: complain profusely, then innovate. As life’s milestones have continued to pepper the year, ways in which we have celebrated birthdays, engagements, promotions, weddings and anniversaries have shifted from outdoors to in, encouraging us to take the art of entertaining into our own hands.

So, what has this actually looked like? Many have become their very own at-home mixologists, pre-mixed drinks have soared in popularity and the options for delivery drinks have become more important than ever. In an unavoidable focus on health, trends of wellness have also contributed to the market, bringing to light a rising demand for hard seltzers and no-to-low alcoholic options.

Adapting as quickly as these ever-changing times will allow, brands in the industry have been faced with an inevitable call to reimagine and recreate. There is a new pressure to invest into profitable and sustainable streams of revenue including takeaway services, pre-batch recipes and the creation of more health-conscious products. But will these brands take a chance and see the value in the current need?

Championing an attitude of quick development, the rise of RTD saw Bacardi embrace the trend by creating their solution to at-home drinking – Twistails. These Nespresso-inspired cocktails pods, made with Bacardi rum, cleverly eliminate the need for extra machinery and long lists of ingredients in a great example of refocusing drinks products to fit an uncertain climate.

There has been a significant rise in the popularity of bottled cocktails, meaning consumers can enjoy their favourite tipples in the comfort of their own homes. One of several new products on the market, No.3 Gin launched a pre-bottled Vesper Martini in collaboration with Alessandro Palazzi of Mayfair’s iconic DUKES Bar earlier this year. It combines No.3’s award-winning gin, vodka and vermouth – and all you have to do is chill the bottle in the freezer for a couple of hours before pouring. Easy, convenient and delicious!

If you can’t go to the pub, why not bring the pub to you? At-home bar set-ups were all the rage during lockdown, with beer delivery brands such as Beerwulf reaping the benefits of additional sales. Brands that won in this category were those who pivoted from their planned marketing strategy, instead changing their messaging to focus on creating the perfect bar experience at home.

Virtual bars have also gained popularity, fulfilling the lost social element caused by closed bars and pubs. In the digitally created spaces, opportunities for connection with both friends and strangers are reinstated in a new way. Brands like Beavertown and BrewDog have successfully jumped on the trend, with Beavertown sponsoring the world’s largest virtual pub – aptly named ‘The Covid Arms’ – earning themselves a Guinness World Record and raising over £32,000 for the National Emergencies Trust.

Speaking of virtual events, drinks tastings and masterclasses also had to shift tactic this year to a new format. Here, the Zoom app came into its own, with many brands hosting unique tastings through the power of video call. One such example was from Mixology Events who sent out cocktail making kits direct to consumer’s homes, before running virtual sessions with mixologists to show you how to make the perfect cocktail.

While it’s fair to say that levels of imagination and renovation have been high, a host of questions still remain: how can alcohol brands continue to stay front-of-mind to their consumers and keep leading in their category?

Stir’s top tips for client innovation

1. The way we are consuming alcohol is evolving, so embrace new formats to appeal to the changing demand

2. New types of drinkers are emerging on the scene, so don’t be limited by the stereotypical demographic associated with your category

3. Media consumption habits are changing and in order to keep your brand front of mind, you need to explore different channels to infiltrate your consumer’s rituals

In conclusion, it’s clear that there is an incredibly strong future for alcohol brands to innovate, pivot and develop quickly in their field at this time. Despite an unavoidable change in consumer behaviours, the demand for alcohol and alcohol-alternatives continues to climb – the expectation is that for this industry, the call for more from a collective of both faithful and new consumers will only continue to grow.