Generation Z loves to Instagram.
Move over millennials, it is Generation Z’s time in the spotlight now. This demographic, which is roughly 9- to 23-years old, is going to be important for smart food and drinks marketers to understand. While many are currently below the legal drinking age, in ten-plus years that won’t be the case.
According to Kristi Turner, chief marketing officer, of Compeat—an Austin, Texas-based restaurant management system—by 2020, Generation Z will make up close to half of all U.S. consumers. So the on- and off-premise retail sector will continue need some solid insight as to how they drink.
I recently sat down with her to take a closer look at some of the new trends that are emerging. All responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Liza B. Zimmerman (LBZ): What are the new tools and methods of building and creating drinks?
Kristi Turner (KT): With the growing popularity of health-conscious drinks, the use of muddlers and strainers is on the rise. Superfoods, medicinal herbs, teas and cold-pressed juices are being used to create healthier cocktails, but they still need to look appealing.
KT: With the rise of health consciousness, we are seeing more herbs and vegetables as garnishes. Bartenders are garnishing with celery, goji berries, cucumber, mint: just to name a few. Locally sourced seasonal fruits and vegetables are always a best seller, whether it is on the menu or just a special offered for a limited time. Plus, they are pleasing to the eye and make great Instagrammable moments.
LBZ: Are standards like vodka sours and Margaritas still popular?
KT: Classics such as Margarita, Martini, Old Fashioned, Mimosa and Moscow Mule are still ranked in the top five performers when it comes to cocktail sales. In fact, the Margarita is the leading performer in afternoon (noon to 6p.m.) and evening (6p.m. to midnight) sales.
However, Gen Z is a more health conscious generation and seems to be moving away from the overly sweet options. They are drawn more toward quality over quantity when it comes to drinks. Instead of the less expensive, sugary drinks, bartenders are seeing an uptick in demand for premium brands in moderation.
LBZ: Is the category of bitters expanding?
KT: Bitters certainly seem to be making a comeback. A dash of bitters can add complexity to a drink while also aiding in digestion. Top whiskey distillers like Jameson and Woodford Reserve are branching out into bitters of all flavors.
LBZ: What are some of the most cutting-edge cocktail ingredients?
KT: Fruit, spice and botanically infused liquors are wildly popular. Infused vodka or whiskey is a great way to get an artisan spirit without adding extra sugars, syrups, glutens, dyes, or other artificial ingredients. Infused spirits offer a natural and simple way to enjoy so many different flavor profiles.
LBZ: What are some of the most expensive new spirits launches you are seeing?
KT: Japanese whisky (they spell it without the “e”) is extremely popular right now. Bars are having difficulty keeping it in stock and it has nearly doubled in price due to the shortage. An average bottle of Japanese whisky can range from $80 to 300 while a record-breaking bottle of Yamazaki 50 sold for $299,000 in 2018.
LBZ: What is on the drinks horizon?
KT: We are seeing a rise in craft mocktails. With the sober-curious movement having such a strong following and Gen Z drinking less alcohol than previous generations, the demand for alcohol-free adult beverages is up. More and more bars and restaurants provide menus dedicated to craft mocktails. Even Coca-Cola has launched a line of alcohol-free, adult beverages.
Also, the dim lit, low-key feeling of traditional bar scene is just not cutting it anymore. Gen Z doesn’t prioritize going out and bonding over drinks like the past generations, they also want stimulation and entertainment. Concepts that offer engaging experiences like board games, online gaming and especially “Instagram-ready” photo opportunities are what will drive the younger crowd to certain establishments.