With Covid-19 restrictions set to impact festive celebrations this year, flavour trends around this Christmas holiday time are likely to be influenced more by nostalgia than novelty, as consumers look for reassuring comforts at this typically tradition-led, family-focused time of year.
Evocative, aromatic spices like ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg will maintain a central place among our festive beverages; think gingerbread lattes and hot chocolates infused with cinnamon and nutmeg. In the UK, wintery fruit flavours like spiced apple and sweet orange will continue to be seen in flavoured gins and mulled wine. While in the US, pumpkin spice flavours will remain popular in RTD coffees and chai flavourings within teas. However, both continents agree, that creamy flavourings are a must at Christmas, with luxurious hot chocolates taking their place across the board. This desire for decadent creaminess may take a variety forms though, as the consumer push for healthier options that bring a sense of wellbeing play to the strengths of dairy alternatives like oat milk.
The wellness trend will continue to impact the alcoholic drinks sector too, particularly with the concerns around Covid-19 focusing attention on immunity among other needs. Alternatives in the form of non-alcoholic distillates that mimic existing alcoholic options, including kombucha that brings the added benefit of digestive probiotic qualities, will likely find a firm footing this Christmas as a result.
As well as choice of drink and flavourings, the impact of Covid-19 will no doubt be evidenced within consumer spending habits this festive season too. With the pandemic has come recession and, as a result, spending is likely to exist in the extremes. Historically, economic difficulty has seen consumers tend towards making savings combined with the odd uplifting treat. So, while a special bottle of ginger and rhubarb gin might well make it onto the Christmas shopping list, the remaining drinks menu is likely to feature juices, good value non-alcoholic drinks and other more reasonable options.
Finally, while evocative festive flavours and reassuring wellness properties, coupled with good value price points, will be key to success in the beverage sector this Christmas, there is also an extra factor that savvy brands are considering. Against the restrictive backdrop of Covid-19, brands that are able to help consumers recreate festive comfort and treats at home, where going out is less feasible, will be able to grab more of the consumer attention. Forward-thinking coffeehouse brands have a head start with this through their retail format RTD coffee options and, more recently, an RTD chai latte offering. In some ways, Covid-19 is levelling the playing field. Innovative small brands have an opportunity to beat big brands at their game. Only time will tell if they succeed.