2018 drinks trends forecasts from Majestic, Chapel Down, Berry Bros. & Rudd, Warner Edwards, and BI

Alys Key
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Honey gin could be the next craze (Source: Warner Edwards)

Now that we have had a week to rest after New Year's Eve, the booziest night of the year, consumers are turning their attention to a new year and new tipples.

City A.M. asked experts in the British drinks industry to give their predictions for the year ahead, identifying the next big things and the not-even-from-the-bargain-bins. These are the drinks trends that will define 2018.

If you're attempting to cut back, you might want to close your eyes now, or read our seven ways to stick to Dry January instead...

Drink up and think of England

The popularity of English producers will go "from strength to strength", according to wine and spirits merchants Berry Bros. & Rudd. But it could be time to look beyond sparkling varieties, say the royal warrant holders: "we suggest that single site [from one vineyard] still wines could be the ‘next big thing’ for our home-grown industry."

Gin isn't about to buzz off just yet

"Experimenting with different botanicals and flavours has made gin the success story of 2017," says Richard Weaver, buying and merchandising director of Majestic, where flavoured gin sales are up 110 per cent on the year.

"Some may feel that gin hype is a load of rhubarb - but rhubarb itself has been key in driving the trend, with rhubarb gin sales up 170 per cent year to date. Expect more flavours in 2018, like the newly launched honey gin, which is set to hit the shelves in the New Year."

Tom Warner, founder of flavoured gin market leaders Warner Edwards agreed, adding: "This is great and healthy for the sector as there is a rebalancing of brand power as the independents start to make inroads on volume and it’s also great to see so many new gin drinkers entering the category, excited by new product development and provenance."

Read more: This UK craft gin has scored a deal with Germany's biggest supermarket

Champagne: A wise investment?

According to Giles cooper, head of marketing at wine trader BI, champagne is one of the hottest investments out there. "The way that rapid consumption drives up back vintages continues to impress and intrigue buyers," he says. The biggest return on BI's LiveTrade platform last year came from a bottle of Champagne 2002, the value of which increased 24 per cent in a year to £3,965.

On the consumer side, Cooper expects more people to try champagne this year, as sparkling wine fans who were "born on prosecco" trade up.

Crossover creativity

Smaller companies are leading innovation in the drinks market, says Frazer Thompson, chief executive of English wine's poster child Chapel Down. In particular, crossover drink which combine different categories are on the rise. "If you look at beer, wine and spirits, the interesting stuff is happening between them and the barriers are now being lifted."

Chapel Down's own beer division, for example, uses champagne yeast in fermenting its brews. Meanwhile brewers such as Innis & Gunn and Brewdog are experimenting with using wine or whisky barrels in the beer-making process.

Beers get serious

Pale ale has been the star of the craft beer movement since it began. But consumers are beginning to gain confidence in their beer knowledge and exploring darker avenues.

Majestic's Richard Weaver said: "A recent survey of buying habits across all of Majestic’s 210 stores suggests customers are increasingly interested in local red ales or stouts, with only eight per cent choosing pale as their beer of choice."

Brandy and sherry fight it out to be the next gin

Whisky fans are about to go mad for brandy, says Richard Weaver of Majestic: "Iconic brandy branding, a focus on provenance and increasing appearances in the ingredients lists of top cocktail experts has led to a new experimental take on the spirit."

Sherry is also staging a comeback. Over the last year say Berry Bros. & Rudd has seen soaring sherry sales for older and rarer styles of sherry, as well as En Rama (or 'raw' sherry). "We believe that 2018 will see the continuation of this great Sherry appreciation trend, especially for Oloroso and Palo Cortado." Top-end sherry sales already jumped 71 per cent at Majestic last year, thanks largely to tapas fans.

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