Proteins Drinks Report looks at how attracting early adopters will benefit drinks companies

Protein's Drinks Report looks at how attracting early adopters will benefit drinks companies

Following a preview of its inaugural Drinks Report at the Global Drinks Forum in Berlin earlier this year, creative agency Protein has this week released the full document. The Drinks Report is an offshoot of the company's wider Audience Report, which surveys 5,100 so-called early adopters* in 10 'cultural capitals'.

Here, just-drinks pinpoints some of the key trends that so-called 'early adopters' are setting for beverage consumers.

  • Politicised marketing

According to Protein, 77% of early adopters believe brands "have a moral obligation to improve the world". These drinkers have strong political views and they are interested in brands that share them.

The report singles out Ilegal Mezcal's #AShotatDonald campaign, which ran during the US Presidential elections. "The brand created a synchronised drinking protest that took place in over 75 bars across the US and Europe," the report says. "The goal of the 'Mass International Drinking Protest', was, as Ilegal Mezcal put it, 'to unify the community that is in opposition to Trump's racist statements and create something positive from what has been such a vile race to watch'."

However, speaking to just-drinks at the release of the report, Protein CEO William Rowe warned that getting involved in politics comes with risks for brands. "We are not denying that this isn't without risk - we're simply observing this trend," he says. "We're reporting on what we see - and there is opportunity as long as you are not over-stating or over-claiming [your brand credentials]."

Protein's report says it's understandable that large global brands would be "apprehensive" about going public with their political convictions. Just this week, Pernod Ricard was moved to defend a Facebook advert for its Absolut vodka brand in South Korea. The ad, posted over the weekend, depicts anti-government demonstrations in Seoul, in the shape of an Absolut bottle. Yet, while several media outlets reported a consumer backlash over the ad, Pernod said that positive engagement from the ad had far out-weighed negative comments.

"Be brave enough to surprise your increasingly savvy audience," Protein says. 

  • Palate Burnout

Early adopters are looking for "simple and more session-able flavours," according to Protein's report. The creative agency points to the prolific number of flavours and special-edition launches over the past few years: "Many of these strategies have a hard time making an impression on global early adopters who are sticklers for authenticity," Protein says. "Simply adding blueberry to a popular spirit, therefore, came across as a shallow, effortless gimmick." 

The agency's findings chime with comments made recently by large beer companies. In November, the CEO of Molson Coors said US beer consumers are striving to make sense of the array of options in the craft beer space. Mark Hunter argued that there is an "over-supply of flavour". Hunter's sentiments echoed those made during a month earlier by Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito, who argues that beer consumers are "tired of choice"

Of Protein's findings, Rowe says he thinks the swing from one extreme - where there were very few options in terms of flavours and brands - to the other will "find a happy medium". 

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"The call for simple, streamlined options is getting louder," the report suggests. "Drinks with all manner of bells and whistles attached will have a hard time gaining fans."

  • Occasions and venues

A common thread among spirits producers in recent years has been to cater for specific drinking occasions, rather than try to cover all category bases. At the same time, catering for the 'home-trade' has become more important.

According to Protein, early adopters have identified a "third space" when it comes to selecting a venue and an occasion to imbibe. "These are venues and events that sit between traditional nightlife venues and points of sale," the report says. "Pop-up events, music festivals and day parties all create new opportunities and avenues for alcohol brands to explore."

Rowe adds that venues such as Japanese-style listening cafes are positioning themselves between going out and staying in. The venues feature high-quality sound systems but the emphasis is on seated listening, with a good selection of drinks, rather than dancing and vertical drinking.

He says drinks companies can "easily" work with these concepts. "It's working in an authentic and collaborative way. Making sure that it makes sense for your brand to be there," he emphasises. 

To access Protein's Drinks Report, click here.

* Protein defines early adopters as  "gatekeepers" to the mass market. The company calls them "affluent, creative, highly networked and tech-savvy". "Once you win the favour of these hard-to-please gatekeepers," it states, "it won't be long before the wider, less culturally-savvy masses start engaging with your brand."