When It Comes To Alcohol Innovation, Don’t Forget The Format!

With alcohol it’s never just been about what you drink, but also how you drink it. Without cucumber, a high glass, and ice, the G&T is not quite the same. Pack, serve and other accompaniments all contribute towards building a ritual.

By putting the same liquid into a new bag/can/bottle/box, brands can quickly tap into new associations and attachments. Here, we explore some of the brands mixing things up with a format to explore what really works.

Wine thinking outside the bottle

Nice drinks’ canned wines bring a convenience factor as well as an approachability that runs counter to the rest of the market to recruit a different type of wine drinker. Recently they have furthered their mission to offer ‘wine for whenever’ with a range of boxed wines.

Sales of boxed wine have surged in recent years, driven primarily by at-home consumption throughout lockdown. While they have dipped back down again, many serious wine drinkers believe in the format for its long-lasting freshness and its sustainability benefits over bottles (see the last TVE blog for more details on this!).

The real challenge for boxed wine will be shaking off some of the cultural associations with poor quality and bargain-hunting students. While cans might carry a premium feel to a younger drinker, boxed wine has a longer way to go before it can be considered a sophisticated option for most.

Cocktail deliveries shaking up at-home consumption

Format helps to build shelf standout and highlights brand positioning, but it can also unlock new opportunities and occasions for growth. One of these is in the area of delivery cocktails. Brands such as NIO cocktails and Letterbox cocktails have moved the world of mixology from edgy bars through to the comfort of consumer’s living rooms.

These beautifully packaged cocktails are the perfect size to be delivered through your letterbox, and so there are no concerns about having to ensure that the recipient is in the house at the time of delivery. Whilst being highly convenient, the format also allows you to send these cocktails as a bit of a surprise bringing joy and delight.

Interestingly, this innovation in format has moved cocktails from a ritualistic concoction into something much more convenient. Whilst they are great as a one-off surprise gift or for enabling consumers to sip a more technically advanced cocktail the removal of the therapeutic ritual surrounding cocktail creation makes us at TVE sceptical of this truly transforming the cocktail category.

Turning water into… beer?

More and more water brands are pivoting from plastic bottles to cans, primarily pushed by concerns around plastic pollution. However, one brand stands out for its use of packaging to build inroads beyond the typical occasions – Liquid Death.

There is much to be celebrated about Liquid Death’s subversive marketing and fresh take on sustainability, but their use of the tall can format is central to their product’s success. This, plus their heavy metal pack design creates a product that looks more like a craft IPA than a can of sparkling water.

The pack design and format allow the drinker to blend in seamlessly to the most hardcore of bars or gigs. By playing into these occasions with a familiar format and appropriate attitude, Liquid Death can steal share from beer and other alcohol in the on-trade and beyond.

Liquid Death outlines the central role format can play in drinks innovation. Going forward we expect that more and more brands will use format to blur the lines between what have traditionally been quite rigid category norms, and in doing so unlock white space while tapping into existing rituals and occasions.

By: John Barnes and Greg Barber

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