In the latest issue of National Liquor News, we’ve analysed how to make the most of summer parties in the months ahead.

Restrictions are easing, weather is warming and the conditions are ripe for a perfect party season.

Over the coming weeks and months, consumers will have quite the appetite for celebrations. After a tough couple of years full of lockdowns, summertime parties will be extra special, as people finally get to catch up with their loved ones. At long last, there is something good to celebrate!

According to Growth Scope data, between the after-Christmas to the end of January period, 84 per cent of ‘big’ social occasions are holiday celebrations, with New Year’s and Australia Day being two of the greatest on the calendar. When you also consider the additional long weekends and summer holiday breaks, it becomes even clearer that this period is quite a busy one for social celebrations.

Growth Scope data reveals that summertime parties are often pretty big affairs, compared to social events at other times of year. These parties have a higher proportion of attendees and a higher energy level than other events, often taking place over a longer timeframe and therefore seeing attendees drink a greater number of drinks.

It’s a different ball game to other times of year, and one that can benefit from a tailored strategy.

Taste of the good times

The timing of many events over summer is generally earlier in the day, compared to other times of the year, according to Growth Scope data. This data reveals more parties start around the lunchtime, afternoon, pre-dinner time frame, and take place more often on weekdays and Fridays, in comparison to other months.

This means that more people are looking for drinks that complement daytime celebrations, and so will likely be looking for certain flavour profiles that align with that.

Summer naturally lends itself to being perfect for more refreshing and lighter flavours, and brands agree that these will see a lot of success at events over the season. Light spirit RTDs are especially catering to these flavours just in time for peak party time.

Genevieve Ireland, Brand Manager for Belvedere Vodka at Moët Hennessy, said: “Light, natural and refreshing [flavours and styles] continue to be a key trend within light spirits. Offerings with more elevated flavour combinations are also becoming more and more popular.”

It’s also important to consumers that these lighter flavours fit into the burgeoning ‘better for you’ trend. Alex Bottomley, Director of Ampersand Projects, said there are a number of reasons that consumers look to this trend for upcoming events.

“Lighter and refreshing drinks will also be sought after as drinkers look to avoid excessive sugar and the dreaded bloating,” said Bottomley.

“Health and wellbeing is another driver. In particular in the warmer months, people are more active and keeping fit so making choices that support this lifestyle becomes even more important. This is why low calorie and no sugar RTDs such as the Ampersand range of products work so well.”

The value of convenience

Aside from flavours, party-going shoppers greatly value convenience. Nick McShane, Brand Manager – Liquor at Stuart Alexander and Co., said products that fit shoppers’ convenience needs will outperform this season.

“When looking specifically at what products will be the most popular, we will continue to see convenience being a key selling point across these key events and occasions, especially during long weekends and events like Australia Day,” he said.

What this convenience means will depend on the customer, the type of event they’re going to, and the timing of such an event.

For most customers though, Ireland said: “Grab and go options will be most popular for summer events, particularly those that are chilled and straight from the fridge.”

Format will also be front of mind when it comes to convenience and how products can fit into the event type.

As Bottomley said: “This summer is all about the picnic. After the year we have all had there is nothing better than getting outdoors and catching up with friends. Therefore, convenience is super important and is a key reason why RTDs will continue to grow and be a popular choice.”

Events also open up the opportunity for other formats that are convenient for consumers who are looking for interesting drinks to easily share amongst a group. This is why Mark Collins, Co-founder of Basic Babe, thinks the season ahead is ripe for boxed cocktails.

“I think the whole Australian summer is built around barbecues, picnics, beaches, parks, and that kind of setting lends itself to that bigger format,” Collins said. “It also lends itself to [portable formats] that are easy to carry.”

The right vibe

During this ever-present era of premiumisation, party shoppers are being swayed by more than price. Growth Scope data shows that 43 per cent of these shoppers don’t buy products on special and 14 per cent buy from a promotional area, while 41 per cent buy something that is pre chilled. This shows that many people are looking for products they feel aligned with, and that would best suit the occasion, rather than looking for the best deals.

In addition to format and flavour, another key part of the decision making process for shoppers when it comes to summer events is how brands and products align with their values. For example, customers can often be swayed by value-led trends like locality and sustainability, and in many cases, they’re willing to pay a premium for such values.

McShane has seen this with West Winds Gin, a local brand that has just announced the launch of its first RTD line.

“One of the major trends across Australia that has gained strong momentum over the past couple of years has been around supporting local… We see brands that are making the most noise, are seemingly the most local, and go hand-in-hand with craft and quality,” he said.

On the sustainability front, Belvedere has seen success with its first RTD line, which is all organic. Ireland said it fulfils the customer desire for environmentally conscious brands, and will be something that Belvedere builds on with likeminded brands throughout the summer.

And for some shoppers, summer events can be the perfect opportunity to fulfil a different value – that of adventure. The newest innovations and creations sway this consumer when they’re browsing for party drinks, looking for something that will satisfy their needs in flavour and format, but also give them a unique talking point for party guests.

Bottomley said this is an area in which the new Ginger Beer from Ampersand Projects will shine.

“Given the expected spike in at-home or outdoor catch ups this summer, ‘talkability’ is important. People want to discover new drinks and also drink products that look as good as they taste,” he said.

“Our new Ginger Beer with its distinctive tiger stripe pattern certainly ticks this box. It’s instagrammable and has the wow factor required to become a talking point at any social occasion.”

Andrew Nowicki, Director at Growth Scope, said what all these needs combined show is that shoppers are after something particular for summer parties, and are looking to be inspired about this in-store.

“It’s a specific shopping mission, they’re often not doing this as a regular top-up shop… that tells us that display plays a really important role.”

Read the full story, including retail tips for party-going customers and our party product guide, in the December/January issue of National Liquor News.

Brydie Allen

Brydie Allen is the Editor of National Liquor News. She has been with Food and Beverage Media since 2019, when she joined the company as a journalist across National Liquor News, Bars & Clubs, The...

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