the future looks rosé: top alcohol trends in a pandemic

by: Emma Ditterich

Way back when lockdown first started, reports showed that the Aussie stereotype of loving a drink, no matter the occasion was alive and well. I know I was enjoying an extra wine with the additional hour at home at the end of the day (no travel!).

Yet with restrictions starting to ease, liquor consumption has slowed. It may still be some time before we are back ‘to normal’, which means there’s plenty of opportunities for brands and categories to facilitate these occasions in the meantime. So, let’s pop a bottle and dive right in to our top alcohol trends!


But why is the rum gone? 

To paraphrase Captain Jack Sparrow, ‘where did the booze go?’

We can see that many suppliers have been hit hard with the closure of pubs, bars and clubs in this pandemic and according to Australia’s changing purchasing habits, physical stores are not quite making up for it.

Not to mention no weddings or group celebrations to toast to, no footy or sport to watch and no live music to enjoy! Despite widespread media coverage of drinking at home rising, new reports now suggest reduced consumption as we’ve gotten used to life in lockdown. Retailers and online services appear to have fared better with many shoppers turning to online out of necessity or looking for local delivery options from their favourite pubs, breweries and wineries.

Our own data shows that shoppers are currently buying and consuming less beer, wine and spirits than they usually do. In fact, 1 in 5 beer buyers are drinking less beer than usual right now. Call it colder temperatures or a stay-at-home hangover, but it seems that booze is not quite hitting the spot as it used to.

wine trends 2020

How to prepare your brand and raise a glass to this 'new normal'.

While our data shows that 60% of people are keen to get festive at their favourite restaurant, pub, or club once COVID is over, we might not see people rushing out in the same way they once were. There’s a good chance that it’ll take a while before everyone has the confidence to start socialising as ‘close’ to what they once were.


"A second wave seems inevitable, I’m going to watch the numbers for a while before I get too confident."       -(Female interviewed by PLAY MR, 40 years).

In the meantime, they’re likely to find ways to feed their need for social time in ways that feel ‘safe’. We're thinking drinks at home or other people’s homes, in parks, outdoor venues and establishments with plenty of open space. So, what else can booze brands do to help us celebrate these occasions in the meantime?

new alcohol drinks 2020

5 key opportunities for brands.

For those playing at home:


1. Get creative (and we don't just mean with cocktail recipes).

A wise person once said, “I love to cook with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food.” And why wouldn’t you? With searches for new recipes growing each week, now is the perfect time to reinvent a family favourite with a splash of the good stuff. Just take Instagram influencer Jessica Nguyen’s latest collaboration with Dan Murphy to create a vodka-infused pasta sauce – a lesson in clever marketing and making cooking at home cool with younger shoppers.

For those missing tap beers, why not put on a beer tasting night at home? Grab a couple of beers you’ve been wanting to try, a few beer paddles, invite your favourite drinking buddies and voila! The perfect opportunity to get curious at home and try new things.


2. Reinvent picnic packs to cater for (almost) any occasion.

Picnic packs used to be the poor cousin of the charcuterie world. But with fewer opportunities to eat out (for now), there’s an incredible opportunity for brands to tap into this alcohol trend and create their own snack and drink packs for different occasions. What about a footy food and drinks pack? Or a movie night pack? Or a 'just because you’re stuck at home’ pack? We’ll take one of each, thanks.


3. Embrace the pull of cooler weather.

Mulled wine and woollies go together, well, like, mulled wine and Woollies (hint, hint). As people change their drinking habits to embrace colder weather or Christmas in July, it’s the perfect opportunity to put DIY mulled wine on the at-home menu. We’re envisioning wine packs paired with spices and easy instructions delivered to your door. Throw in an orange or two (it is citrus season!) and you’ve got yourself a cosy night in. What pandemic?  new alcohol 2020

For those holding out for venues to reopen:

4. Make zero alcohol the hero.

As we navigate this new world of social distancing in peak hour public transport, it’s inevitable that there’ll be more cars on the road. And as venues begin to open up, there’s a good chance that people will be reluctant to put down their car keys. So, think as the designated drivers do. Zero alcohol and low alcohol drinks have been rising in popularity, with the no-alcohol beer category projected to reach 2 percent of total beer sales by 2025, according to CUB (of Carlton Zero fame). Think premium, think full flavour and definitely rethink your mocktail menu. With the likes of Seedlip on the market, there’s no excuse.


5. Bring back the beer bucket.

With social distancing likely to crash our happy hours for a while yet, it’s time for brands and venues to work together to create new offers. Although the classic Corona bucket might not have the same ring as it once did, there is something to be said for a bundle deal. This could be as simple as embracing beer jugs or branching out to create different ‘tasting experiences’ so groups can sample the menu whilst allowing staff to prepare for the requests of larger groups (especially when there’s likely to be capacity restrictions in place).

With a chance that table service will be the new norm, it’s a perfect time to get creative with menus and showcase new beers, wines, spirits and zero alcohol drinks to ensure your full range is on display. After all, if your customers don’t know what’s on offer and can’t see the beer taps from their table, how are they meant to sample your finest wares?

beer trends of 2020

How to keep your alcohol brand and business on the front foot in 2020.

Now is the perfect opportunity to embrace a new direction for your business to flourish long after this pandemic is over. We truly know our stuff when it comes to the Australian alcohol industry and our unique facilities in Sydney and Melbourne mean we're perfectly placed for in depth interviews, in-home usage tests and shopper research.

If you’re looking to better understand your new market, evaluate your innovative new product or even test your communications strategy, we're here to help.

Get in touch to get started today using the orange enquiry button to the right at any time.



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about the author

Emma Ditterich

As PLAY’s senior account director, Emma has a zest for consumer and shopper research and has worked with top blue-chip companies in Asia Pacific, Europe, the US and the UK. When she’s not unearthing the next ‘big thing’, overcoming purchase barriers or building category growth drivers, you can find her enjoying the spoils of the Mornington Peninsula with her family and having her powers of negotiation tested by her toddler.

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