Gosh, what a busy year! Our feet don’t feel like they’ve touched the ground. So, without further ado, here’s our review of the year and the drink trends that are to come …

Craft Beer

2017 has been an exciting year! The demand for craft beer here in the UK and the flurry of related events on offer was quite staggering. What with Craft Beer Rising, BEERX, Brewers Lectures, and the Great British Beer Festival, there aren’t enough days in the year.

We’ve had a really busy year of canning line and brewhouse installs. Did you know that 84% of the UK breweries in which we’ve installed American Beer Equipment canning lines and brewhouses are award winning? Their collective medal hoard is impressive, including World Beer Awards, International Beer Challenge, RateBeer Best Awards (incl. the 1st UK brewery to make the top 10 Best Brewers in the World!) SIBA Awards, and many more. Great reasons for us all to feel proud!

The canning craze continues to rise in the US and here in the UK. Canned craft beer volume in the US increased from 4% to 12% between 2013 and 2016 [IRI Group]. SIBA reported that while there were only 4 UK independent breweries using cans in 2014, there are now over 100. Whether craft beer lovers are greedy for can formats in particular, or they just love the diversity of craft beers in every format, is difficult to determine. There is little doubt, however, that the benefits of cans aren’t limited to the consumer. If you are a brewer, you’ll be well aware that cans protect beer from light an oxygen, they retain fresh hop flavours and they are a much more flexible packaging option than bottles. If you’re interesting in canning, please do contacts us.

So what’s new for 2018? Nitro Beer is here! Craft breweries in the US are really embracing nitrogen-carbonated beer — it’s being called ‘Nitro-mania’. Whether nitro white ale, IPA or stout, the smoother mouth-feel, evenly distributed flavour, and cascading bubbles add a whole new level of complexity to craft beers. Producing nitro beer in cans for UK craft brewery market is now possible with American Beer Equipment’s Nitro-canning system, which we’re offering for the year to come (with or without widget option), so do contact us if you want to chat through your options!

Cider

For those cider makers amongst you, we’re hoping you’ve got a spring in your step for the year ahead. The buzz you created in the Orchards & Cider Pavilion at the Bath & West Show was palpable, and your 500+ cider and perry entries to the British Cider Championships yet again ensured its position as the largest cider competition in Europe. We received good reports of this year’s apple harvest across the UK and we’ve certainly noticed a quietly optimistic outlook for 2018 from those of you we’ve chatted to. The news that the UK cider market represents 46% of cider sold across the world is a huge achievement, as outlined by Helen Williams, Chair of the NACM. If the cider production case studies we’ve got coming up are a barometer for the year ahead, we’re pretty excited!

Retail market opportunities seem to be expanding, as more and more of you are getting contracts with supermarkets, which are realising the value of offering local/regional cider and apple juice from smaller producers.

As for forecasted trends, we can understand the irony some of you traditional cider makers will feel about ‘craft cider’ being the next big thing (you’ve no doubt been producing it for years). Irony aside, however, there is a lot to be said for the positive impact this word is set to have on the industry. The potential for craft cider is as huge as it is for beer, and the hope is that in the not too distant future, cider lovers will recognise and identify not just the brands but the growing number of styles of cider on offer. Simon Wright of Hawkes Cider (the first “urban cidery” in London) recognises this, and throws forward this challenge: “Who are the Beavertowns of the cider world?” With great branding and a collective promotional push, craft cider will establish its own niche and be relevant to the demographic which is fundamental to its growth.

And the other trends? It’s no surprise that canning is one of the main trends to come, as emphasised by Ciderologist, Gabe Cook. Cans are so relevant to ‘craft’ and we’re excited to see canned ciders from medium scale producers now being launched onto the market. If you’d like to talk about canning, even if it’s just about the concept of canning cider, we’d really like to hear from you. Our canning equipment capacity starts from 15 cans per minute.

Wine

The wine producers amongst you will be well aware that it has been a year of contrasts.Putting the alarming frost reports from April and May to one side, it’s been a fantastic PR year for English and Welsh wine. There was high profile media coverage of record turnover (English independent wine producers),record plantings, and outstanding results in international competitions and blind tastings. We counted 86 medals won by English/Welsh wine producers in this year’s International Wine & Spirits Competition and the International Wine Challenge reported that 108 medals were won, which are a tremendous achievement and a testament to the expertise and flair within our wine industry.

Though a fractionally higher grape yield (UK tonnes/ha) was reported this year compared to 2016, there was much variance by region and variety, much as a result of the frosts, as outlined in Stephen Skelton’s excellent UK Vineyard 2017 Harvest Report. The overall outcome appears better than originally feared back in the Spring but the report’s conclusion is reminder of the commercial challenges faced.

Current consumer buying behaviour is not immune to polarities either. Waitrose report* that we are becoming a ‘price-savvy, value-hunting’ nation, while regarding purchases such as wine as ‘sacrosanct’ which we won’t renege on. This is really good news for English andWelsh wine as its profile continues to rise and supermarkets, top retailers and restaurants stock more and more lines.

Mintel reports that consumers are actively seeking food and drink as a positive contrast to the stress of modern life. Mintel predict that in 2018 food and drink will become integral to the consumer’s ‘self-care’ routine. The future is ‘personalisation’ — food and drink combinations or experiences which will save time/energy, create memories, and feel personal. These are all ripe pickings for our wine industry!

Cold Brew Coffee

It will be of little surprise that coffee has caught the ‘craft’ bug. More and more people are building a culture around it. Foresight Factory reported that since 2015, “photogenic” coffee posts on social media have risen by a staggering 4,446%.

Putting #latteart (and it’s cousins) to one side, however, we sense that cold brew coffee could be a drink to watch in 2018. Cold brew, put simply, is coffee steeped in cool water for many hours. It produces a smooth and less acidic drink compared to its counterpart, iced-coffee, which starts off hot.

Starbucks were reported to have started the demand for cold brew coffee in America two years ago, with the launch of their Cold Brew, and latterly Nitro Cold Brew. In the last 12 months sales of cold brew coffee in the US rose 80%, according to StudyLogic, as cold brew is predicted to wake up the American coffee market. This year Starbucks’ Nitro Cold Brew was launched in a selected stores in the UK market.

Cold brew coffee is very much in its infancy in the UK. We have, however, noticed an increase in enquiries recently and were lucky enough to sample a range of canned cold brew coffees from one UK producer who got in touch.

We’re pleased to announce that in response to growing demand in the US, American Beer Equipment has launched their new Coffee Brewhouse, a 5bbl system, which we are offering to the UK market.

Interestingly, there are parallels between cold brew coffee and craft beer and it isn’t just the brew kit which is similar. The importance of the ingredient’s origins, the extraction of flavours, similar flavour-notes, and the indisputable fact that both beer and coffee play a key role in bringing people together are just some of the parallels.

Please call us if you are interested in adding cold brew coffee to your drinks range and would like to discuss ABE’s Coffee Brewhouse.

Time to wish you …

We only mentioned a few key drink trends here for 2018 and only three of the drink sectors which the UK is renowned for. This blog is more than long enough to include more, sadly.

As the year draws to a close, we wish every UK drink producers lots of sales over the Christmas and New Year period and throughout 2018. Thank you for giving our nation much to be proud of. Have a very happy Chirstmas and an upbeat New Year!

From all the team at Vigo Ltd

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Published by Vigo Ltd

Equipping the Nation's Drink Producers

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