Brewers need to cater for younger generation consumers who value experiences over products themselves, according to a US researcher.
Millennial and Generation Z consumers approach food and beverage products in a different way to their elders, Datassential founder Jack Li told the recent Craft Brewers Conference.
“If you’re a boomer, you’re usually pretty sure something is going to taste good before you give it a shot,” he said.
“If you’re a millennial or Gen Z-er you’re way more likely to say, ‘I’m going to try something new’, just because it’s new. There’s an insight there.
“Don’t purposely make something that tastes terrible – that’s not a good goal, but sometimes taste doesn’t have to be the very first thing that we appeal to.”
Li said younger generation consumers want to spend their money on experiences and brewers should support that with the products they offer.
“The really more interesting adult beverage menus right now are… experience-driven types of menus where the customer is doing something really cool or sharing something really interesting as part of that experience, and probably Instagramming that thing out or posting a YouTube video or something and doing some of your marketing for you,” he said.
“If you ask someone, ‘what is the most trusted recommendation you can get?’ It’s the recommendation you get from friends and family.
“We should be encouraging our consumers to do that for us. But we’ve got to give them a really new interesting thing that would make them want to say, hey I want to prove that I was a part of that thing and that I was the first one of my friends that did something with that,” said Li.
He said the current ingredients that are trending as additives in beer – such as mango, pineapple and tangerine – are not particularly innovative.
“If we want to look further out and do something really inventive, I would look at what’s trending in the world of cocktails,” he said.
“The flavour trends that happened there and some of the broader thematic trends tend to happen first in cocktails and then eventually may happen in the beer space too.”
Li said rosewater, beetroot, rhubarb, balsamic, fig, jalapeno and maple are some of the ingredients that are now trending in cocktails.
And another key trend in evidence is the use of taboo ingredients such as tobacco, he added.
Other “naughty” products such as cannabis and Mace (pepper spray) were already finding their way into beer, the researcher said.
He said Blue Moon creator Keith Villa had recently founded a cannabis beer venture, while Dogfish Head had released ‘In Your Mace’, a coffee milk stout brewed with chili oils, the active ingredient in Mace Brand pepper spray.
“Outrageous and taboo are in. Doing stuff really on the edge that seems so crazy or ridiculous in some way, the craziness or ridiculousness of that taboo – this is what makes the product appealing,” said Li.
He said bartenders are also beginning to incorporate “functional foods” like chia seeds, spirulina, bee pollen, turmeric and activated charcoal into cocktails.
“Protein has been the headliner for awhile, but now we’re seeing superfoods, antioxidants [and] other things that give you some sort of a performance boost in some way, not just in the athletic sense but they actually enable you to do something a little bit more efficiently or better as a person and that’s a big change,” said Li.
“A lot of these things exist because we think they’re going to do something for us even though we’re not sure if they taste really that great… and you see this in cocktails too.
“Go into your favourite high end bar, you know where you have a bartender doing really cool stuff… and say, ‘well what can I do that this person’s doing that I could bring into my beer business?’”