The U.S. Drinks Conference 2007 was a one-day event that took place recently in London, England. Billed as “The Insider’s Guide to the U.S. Beverage Alcohol Market,” the conference sought to offer insight to international producers on how to best address the potentially lucrative American market.
I was not in attendance at the event, but I did read with interest some of the quotes gleaned from the proceedings by Olly Wehring, from just-drinks.com. Specifically, I was fascinated to read the following from Jeff Grindrod of the Brand Action Team, a Connecticut-based firm specializing in the marketing of beverage alcohol in the United States:
“Four million consumers will turn 21 in the US each year and they will be seeking new brands and better experiences. It used to be that consumers were hitting legal drinking age and heading straight for beer. Today, they’re entering with a cocktail mindset.”
Sage advice indeed, but also I think a little misleading. Rather than “a cocktail mindset,” I would offer that young consumers are entering the market with a premium mindset, which is to say that their expectations are much, much higher than were ours when we first (legally) entered the beverage alcohol market.
Think about it: A 21 year old today has lived his or her entire life with craft breweries, quality American wines and single malt whiskies, and most of that time with other high-end spirits and at least some recognition of the status allure of the cocktail. Or to put it another way, “premium beer, wine and spirits” is not and never has been a foreign phrase to them.
Money is still a factor, of course, as it was for most of us when we were in our early twenties. But when youthful drinkers today can afford it, they have, as Grindrod suggests, no problem heading straight for the luxury end of the market.
Oh, and that reference in the title of this post to “ill-conceived pairings”? That harkens back to the shipment of Pilsner Urquell and cigars I told you about a while back. As promised, I tested the partnership out last night and can report that while individually the beer and cigar were both quite enjoyable, when paired the cigar took no time at all to overwhelm the relatively delicate flavor of the beer.
A celebratory duo, perhaps, but not one which played well together.