Over the past year, brands have been finding new ways of satisfying consumers’ thirst for a cold beer. Mintel’s recent Beer – UK, 2014 report reveals that after five consecutive years of decline, overall volume sales of beer are expected to rebound in 2014, now is as good a time as ever for beer brands to harness innovation to reach British drinkers.

We look at how brands are using technology and creating partnerships to do so, and look at what we may see more of in the year ahead…

Social media and technology

This year has seen brands turn to social media to connect with consumers and promote their beer with engaging and exciting offers…

Heineken has been one of the most proactive brands in the market over the past year, implementing many different types of new product development. Particularly of note was the high-profile investment for the “Open Your City” campaign, with the summer 2014 launch of the new-look city edition bottles bearing the name of six cities which the company believes are the world’s most progressive.

As part of the launch, Heineken implemented a social media campaign for Twitter users in mid-2014. By tweeting the hashtag #wherenext, the service analyses tweets and recommends nearby venues where tweeters could go out next.

Heineken weren’t the only ones utilising social media. In order to build brand awareness, the Czech brand Kozel (owned by SABMiller) has run a number of free pint giveaways for consumers who downloaded the Kozel Pint Finder app.

Twitter is a popular medium for beer brands to capture consumer interest. Indeed, Fuller’s used the platform to promote its beer in autumn 2014, specifically looking at followers of London Pride on the social media website. These followers could submit a photo of an empty pint glass with the hashtag #EmptyPint and in return they received a voucher code that could be exchanged for a free second pint refill.

Working in partnerships

Recent years have seen increasing numbers of brewers working alongside the multiple grocers on retailer-exclusive variants. Partnerships enable retailers to undercut branded alternatives on price and to drive volume growth, often via promoted variants.

An example of this is Marstons, which launched an exclusive range of 500ml bottled beers called the Revisionist in partnership with Tesco in early 2014. Priced at £1.79, a wide variety of beers were introduced in the range, including a rye beer, wheat beer and red ale. The two companies also worked together to launch an ale in autumn 2014, created by injured veterans to raise funds for the military charity, Help for Heroes. Tesco identified millennials as one of the key target groups for the beer, with 5p being donated from every sale to the charity.

Brewers are also working in partnership with other drinks companies. This is epitomized by Meantime Brewing Company launching a beer in collaboration with Chase Distillery in August 2014. The companies claim that it is the first craft beer to replace hops with a blend of botanicals from Chase’s Gin.

Elsewhere, the brewer Adnams aimed to involve British consumers in the production process, appealing for donations of wild and garden hops to go towards the creation of its new Wild Hop beer.

Upcoming Trends

But what can we expect for the year ahead? Mintel has identified beer trends to watch out for the upcoming year…

A unique story: After establishing its own hip farm on-site next to the O2 arena in London in early 2014, Meantime Brewery launched a Thames Hope IPA that used hops from the site in late 2014, giving the beer a unique story and specific origins.

A unique taste: A number of brands are now ageing and finishing beers in barrels in order to achieve a unique taste. The Scottish company Innis & Gunn is one of the proactive breweries in this segment, most recently launching a Rare Oak Pale Ale in autumn 2014 which it claims is the first modern-day beer matured in Scottish oak.

A unique consistency: Meanwhile, after a successful trial period, Wells and Young’s rolled out Kirin Frozen to ten venues across the UK in summer 2014.The brand uses a dispenser which adds a whipped top frozen at -5 degrees to a standard pint, claiming to keep the beer colder for 30 minutes longer than usual.

A unique balance: In late 2014, Cambridge Consultants launched its new ‘Hoppier’ barista-style machine, claiming to be the world’s first machine which can adjust the hoppiness of beer in seconds. In a similar way to using a coffee machine, consumers can ask for a beer with extra hoppiness via the use of a specific filter which extracts the flavour from crushed hops. Considering that 21% of beer drinkers prefer hop-forward beers, this could be an interesting development in the on-trade and even possibly the off-trade in the coming years.

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