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William Grant & Sons Trending 2020 Report reveals global uncertainty driving demand for more meaningful curated experiences and greater control, elevating brands’ ability to connect and inspire

Widespread social, economic, political and technological uncertainty is driving the growth of The Active-ist Consumer mind-set, presenting new challenges for brands. First identified as emerging in 2018, the evolution of The Active-ist Consumer is characterised by a desire for curated social experiences, greater control of personal data and purpose-driven brand engagement. More tribal than ever before, forming communities around niche groups and specialist interests, they are calling for brands to go the extra mile to connect in a mutually beneficial way on their terms.

This is the finding from William Grant & Sons’ Trending 2020 Report, the latest consumer insight and market analysis from the premium spirits leader. The evolution of The Active-ist Consumer is reflected in an upward shift in spending on more meaningful experiences, driving premiumisation in the spirits industry. Innovation is now a marker for luxury, which will see investment in R&D boosted across the drinks industry in 2020, with innovative drinks combinations designed to capture life’s best moments.

In an ever volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, the dynamic between brands and consumers is shifting, with demand now driving:


  • Immersive Worlds: 80% of millennials are always looking for unique experiences and adventure;
  • Brand connections on a candid human level: Nearly half (47%) of UK consumers agree they like brands to have a point of view and stand for something;
  • Proactive self-management: From carefully creating online identities and specific spend on experiences and services, to managing individual health and social groups;
  • Purpose: 73% of consumers agree ‘it’s not enough for brands to just be environmentally responsible – they should be socially responsible too’.

Nearly nine out of ten (86%) consumers are likely to treat themselves to small indulgences in the next 12 months, showcasing the continued upward trend of premium and luxury brands in key spirits category performance across the on and off-trade.

Trending 2020 uncovers how the behaviours of today’s Active-ist Consumers are underpinned by year-on-year changes in five identified key themes that represent fundamental human motivations:

  • My Identity: from embracing diversity and transparency in 2018 to heightened awareness of the extrinsic value of identity and humanity in 2019;
  • My Health: from cutting out the ‘junk’ last year to a more holistic understanding and management of well being this year;
  • My Experiences: from the frequent high octane occasion to intentional investment in shareable, immersive experiences;
  • My Expectations: from on-demand living to service and innovation as new markers of luxury – there is a willingness to pay a premium for service and innovation that meets personal needs;
  • My Values: from purpose-led brands as a ‘nice to have’ to brand alignment with consumer values being imperative for businesses. It is crucial to align social consciousness with a reason to believe.

Neil Barker, managing director, William Grant & Sons UK and Ireland, said; “The 2019 Active-ist Consumers’ demands for control and a stronger voice is rooted in their desire to drive positive social change. Significantly, Trending 2020 also reveals that consumers continue to expect the brands they engage with to go the extra mile for them, meaning brands must work harder to establish real connections with customers in the year ahead. The challenge for us is to ensure we positively engage with consumers by investing in sustainable, appropriate storytelling and immersive experiences.”

The Report also provides an in-depth analysis of key spirits categories and performance across the on and off-trade, with key market findings including:

  • Beer, wine & spirits (BWS) industry is worth £43.1BN in the UK, up 3.2%. Of this, on-trade accounts for £25.7BN (up 2.9%); and off-trade £17.4BN (up 3.6%);
  • The spirits sector continues to go from strength to strength and is now worth £11.4bn, up 6.3% from last 2018;
  • Gin is now worth over £2BN. If current growth rates are sustained, gin is set to overtake vodka as the biggest category in 2020;
  • Premium spirits (defined as £23+ using Nielsen price per 70cl) continue to thrive. Total premium spirits are now worth £1.66BN, up 16.3% and now account for 34.3% of all spirits value growth over the last year.

Neil Barker concluded: “Continued growth in the premium drinks sector reflects an increasing desire to prioritise quality over quantity. People are drinking less, but better, seeking out authentic quality brand experiences that deliver against values that are important to them. Innovation in no/low alcohol serves, clarity on the provenance of premium brands, as well as investment in the experiences that best elevate our brands are just some of the ways we will continue to take consumers on an elevated, premium experience journey.”

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below and let’s have a chat! 

Tags: BeerbrandsGinspiritsTHE ACTIVE-IST CONSUMERWilliam Grant & SonsWilliam Grant & Sons Trending 2020Wine
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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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