Nostalgia Dominates Spring Alcohol Trends

Childhood flavors get an adult twist while nonalcoholic offerings start to expand and trend upwards, according to an analysis from Datassential.
Amanda Koprowski
Associate Editor
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Pile of Lucky Charms cereal

CHICAGO — Sunny D, Lucky Charms and chocolate Easter bunnies are all providing inspiration for adult beverages in the 2023 spring and summer seasons.

Looking to tap into millennial and older Gen Z nostalgia, beverage companies are seeking to provide a familiar experience reminiscent of childhood but suitable for adult tastes, according to Datassential's recent webinar, "2023 Adult Beverage Trends." 

Hosts Colleen McClellan, vice president of customer experience; Kyle Chamberlin, associate director of customer experience; and Kelly Dykhuizen, senior director of customer experience, covered a wide range of alcoholic beverages and cocktails with a focus on recapturing the feel of childhood experiences with something appropriate for a grown-up palate. 

Simultaneously, an uptick on nonalcoholic offerings shows how the changing patterns in drinking behavior, especially among the youngest legal cohort, is causing traditional brewers and winemakers to expand their offerings to nondrinkers.

[Read More:Wellness Trends Are Shaking Up the Alcoholic Beverages Category]

Both trends can be seen in home sales and restaurant offerings. For instance, the Chocolate Club in London introduced a booze-filled chocolate bunny for Easter while The City Tap in Boston created a Lucky Charms martini, a pistachio-based drink garnished with the breakfast cereal staple. For the at-home market, Sunny D entered into the hard seltzer space with a vodka-infused 12-ounce can.

Multi-colored cocktails on a bartop

Adult Nonalcoholic Options

In the meantime, according to Chamberlin, the nonalcoholic beer space has seen an uptick in activity after years of flat or even declining growth. But changes in drinking preferences after the pandemic seem to have sparked a resurgence.

"Consumers are … seeing high ABV as an efficient way to drink," Chamberlin said. "If they're going to spend up for craft, they want it to get the bang for their buck out of the ABV. And I think increasingly, we're seeing a kind of bifurcation where people are going for no alcohol at all … or they're going all the way up to the eight, nine [or] 10 percent imperial IPAs."

McClellan pointed out that while brewing companies have long worked in the nonalcoholic space, it's only more recently that wines and spirits have started to more actively produce low or no-ABV offerings at capacity. This includes some surprisingly traditional brands and companies, such as Veuve du Verne from France and Starla.

In the meantime, companies like Mixoloshe offer nonalcoholic cocktail options, like blueberry gin and tonics, or nonalcoholic mixers and bases, such as the no-ABV limoncello from Paulini.

Bottle of wine next to strawberries

Wine & Cocktails

Which isn't to say that the adult beverage industry has decided to teetotal for the entire spring and summer seasons. Fruit-based and botanical offerings are being or have been launched for customers interested in lighter flavors in warmer weather. Chamberlin pointed to brands like Seagram's Escapes, which brought in flavors like leche to tap into a younger market while also elevating what malt beverages can offer.

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To add to that trend, McClellan noted that many wines have returned to marketing themselves with terms like "fruity" or "crisp." She attributes these product trends to consumers themselves becoming more adventurous in their palates or simply not having the same negative connotations with certain types of drinks.

"Seventy-two percent of consumers are interested in a fruit wine, like blackberry wine," she said. "Our drinkers today are young enough and new enough to the category that they don't have [a] preconceived notion of what wine needs to be or the romance of bottle opening."

More information on spring and summer adult beverage offerings can be found in the full webinar here.