Adult Beverage Trends To Raise A Glass To In 2024

By Nichole Simpson, SVP Business Development and Customer Leadership, Advantage Unified Commerce, Chicago, IL

It’s officially the holiday season – a time when adult beverages flow a bit more frequently. It’s also a time when those of us who think about the adult beverage category more deeply consider the trends that are worth raising a glass to in 2024, as well as the potential pitfalls ahead we need to navigate soberly.

Here are just a few trendlines unfolding next year and beyond.  

Millennials Are Bringing Sexy Back:

For younger demographics, the trend is toward ‘premiumization’ – a focus on creating an upscale experience. Cocktails are one crucial component of the whole experience they’re going for. Believe it or not, a lot of millennials consider themselves to be foodies, and are looking to bring back an old-school sense of panache to their drinking. They’re thoughtfully pairing meals with wines and cocktails. Social media influencers have helped drive this idea of drinking as a signifier of sophistication and lifestyle.

Bottom line: These consumers are looking for reasons to get dressed up again, and when they go out they take ownership of the moment with their friends and family. Look for the future of the food and beverage category to evolve into a sexier space than it used to be thanks mostly to a younger generation of consumers. 

Different Kind Of Mixing:

In 2024, you’ll see more consumers going out for ‘drinks’ but alternating between alcoholic drinks, mocktails, CBD or cannabis-infused beverages, and maybe an energy drink if they feel sluggish. This kind of back-and-forth drinking stems in many ways from consumers wanting the experience of having drinks out with friends, but not always centering that around feeling buzzed.

Bottom Line: The lines between beverage and alcoholic beverages have become more blurred than they have in the past. Customers are looking for that differentiation, but focusing more on enhanced hydration, complex flavors, and calming and mental health elements, and they have started to balance out the two and use them simultaneously together.

Social Media Influencer Matter. Connoisseurs Less So:

Until recently, adult beverage retailers would put a lot of value in the opinions of tastemakers who would issue their yearly rankings of best wines, beers, spirits, etc. Brands that scored high were likely to find their way to retailer’s shelves. But this next generation of drinkers doesn’t appreciate that kind of curation. They want to try as many types of cocktails as possible, and they don’t rely on anybody else’s opinion. Whatever they like, they like, and that’s what they buy. Right now, social media influencers have as much influence as ‘experts’ who have spent years understanding the particular nuances of adult beverages, particularly in wine and spirits. 

Bottom line: Retail buyers might want to consider brands that are trending on TikTok, as well as what Wine Connoisseur magazine says when deciding what brands to feature on their shelves. Be cognizant of lifestyles, emerging food and drink trends, and signals that you’re getting from consumers. And don’t forget, the younger consumer is more passionate about what they like and wants to tell everybody in their social circles about it.

Celebs Investors Resonate:

Casamigos tequila, co-owned by George Clooney, is probably the best recent example of the value a celebrity can bring to a brand. But there’s a difference between what Clooney is doing with the brand, and simply having a celeb appear in an ad campaign. Look around the industry and you see that the celebrity partnerships that succeed long-term are the ones where those involved are more than just a spokesperson – think Ryan Reynolds’ Aviator Gin, Francis Ford Coppola’s wines, or Bethenny Frankel’s SkinnyGirl line.

Bottom line: It all comes down to purpose – is it something the celebrity is personally invested in, literally and figuratively, or is the brand putting a celeb’s name on it and hoping it sells? People don’t connect with the latter anymore; they see through that and decide pretty fast if this is something they would like to drink.

Seltzers Still Not Flat:

If you walk the flavored seltzer aisle you might be tempted to think this product category is maxed out, but probably not, although it certainly has a lot of attention right now. 

Bottom line: If your marketing is clever, and your taste and flavor profile are on point, along with a correct price point, brands can find success.   

Values Still Matter:

Consumers, particularly younger ones, care about where they spend their money. They want to support brands that align with their values on issues like sustainability, employee safety, and the politics of the CEO. All of it is fair game for consideration when making purchasing decisions.

Bottom line: Brands that have a compelling story to tell in the area should consider ways to communicate that, particularly on social media. Those that do not shouldn’t pretend to.