Richard Siddle: why 2013 could be the year that drinks innovation takes off

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So what do you think about whilst munching through your morning cornflakes? Well if you are anything like head of Diageo UK, Andrew Cowan, you would be thinking about all the out of the box ideas you might have for new drinks launches. In our interview with Cowan in this week’s issue (see pages 22-24) he makes no apology for in his words “shamelessly stealing” ideas from other brands in other categories. Including cereals.

He says the wine and spirits world can learn a great deal from how the big breakfast brands, for example, have transformed that category by developing brands and, crucially, packaging formats that tap in to the consumer’s demand for more convenience style products and a “time-poor, cash-poor” mentality. Other leading brands have looked to launch convenience formats across all the other grocery categories. Be it sharing packs for chocolate to baked beans in a re-usable pot for the fridge.

The wine sector, as we know, has been notoriously slow in driving real packaging innovation in to a category that still harks back to the screwcap being its “Archimedes moment”. But there are now very clear signs that the trade is now putting its collective thinking cap on.

Often the biggest innovations and breakthroughs in business come in the most difficult times. When companies are ironically more willing to be braver, more daring, and prepared to try something new to get their sales moving.

Now the likes of wine pouches, bag in a box, and even cans have been around for years. The key difference is the technology behind them is now of a quality that gives major wine and spirits producers to look more at how they can use them.

All of which means 2013 is going to be the year when we finally start to see real momentum, supported by a series of serious brand launches, in the low alcohol, wine cocktail and fruit based drinks categories.

Giving retailers the opportunity to start promoting these brands in dedicated, high profile fixtures in-store.

But vitally it all goes back to the quality of the liquid in whatever format it is sold in. In a way the major drinks producers should be applauded for holding back product launches in some of these areas until they were convinced they had the best possible brands they could produce.

Then it is over to consumers to decide whether they want to buy them.

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