Tag Archives: alcohol trend

The Current Economy’s Effects on Alcohol Trends

Cocktails; mage from MorgueFileThe world today is on a new alcohol horizon or at least a more innovative and uniquely individual one.  What’s spurred this?  From more minimal splurging to pop culture inspired throwback cocktails many of the current alcohol trends are rooted in the down economy.

In the past few years, alcohol sales have been less than stellar overall.  However, some categories were down more than others.  More expensive choices such as wine (down 10.8 percent in 2009) and spirits with higher price points (down 5.1 percent by volume in 2009) have fallen by the way side as more economical choices have gained ground, according to an article by Martinne Geller.  While some restaurant goers are still passing up the alcohol option, it is now a bit more inexpensive to enjoy a libation with options such as wine-by-the glass.

However, many people are simply forgoing the experience of eating outside the home all together and simply grabbing a 6-pack to enjoy with a nice meal at home.  According to worldclassbeverages.com, “2009 saw an increase of 7.2% in the sales of craft beer while the overall beer industry struggled with a 2.2% decline.”   This demand for specially crafted brew has also led to a massive amount of operating breweries.  In 2009, there were 1,595 breweries operating in the U.S. which is the highest total since before Prohibition, according to Brewer’s Associaiton.   The BA also approved a new definition of what craft beer itself really means this year, allowing for craft to stand for any independent brewery that produces up to 6 million barrels of traditional beer (up from a previous 2 million).   For brewery workers, this all leads to the hope of more jobs and eventually a better economy.  For consumers, craft beer simply stands for a higher quality with more attention to detail.  Even though a shopper may pay a bit more for a craft brew than a domestic, since they aren’t splurging on items like take-out or restaurants, they feel that they can spend just a bit more and enjoy a higher quality beverage.

This stay-at-home drinking trend has also led to a push that would allow alcohol sales to boost the economy in another way.  Several states have pushed for a repeal of the, sometimes centuries old, blue laws.  Blue laws were originally put into places to provide Christians with an alcohol-free (and in some places real-estate and car sale-free) day of Sabbath, according the SUNY Potsdam Alcohol Problems and Solutions site.  Many nowadays think these laws are not only out-dated, but could be preventing a great deal of tax dollars from being raised due to an entire day void of sales.  In an article on ABCnews.com, Lisa Hawkins of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States said, “Blue laws … simply don’t make sense in today’s economy. They inconvenience consumers and deprive states of much-needed tax revenue.”   According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, 36 states now permit the sale of distilled liquor on Sunday, 14 of which have joined the list since 2002.  Now with a downturn economy and an upswing in take-home alcohol purchases, many states and communities are pushing for these laws to be gone and to allow Sundays and local (and imported) liquor to help boost the economy.

Like money, fame has always played a hand in trends as well and the new wave of alcohol trends is no exception.  With characters on popular shows (mostly of the cable variety) swilling drinks left and right, it’s not hard to believe that pop culture could have an influence of the adult beverage industry.  However, unlike the influence of shows like Sex and the City that brought in high-priced fruity drinks, this new cocktail movement is a little bit masculine and a lot more of a throwback.  Recently, the tides have turned towards the more traditional drinks served straight or pre-prohibition style.  Thanks to shows like AMC’s Mad Men and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, bars are now catering more to the harder stuff than in the recent past.

So why is the modern, i-Pod listenening, 3-D watching, technology driven crowd looking back to drinks inspired by the 60’s and even the 20’s?  It could be due to the idea that during a downturn economy people look to more prosperous times with feelings of nostalgia.   Possibly best summed up in an article on consumer trends on euromonitor.com, “..in a world where everything is possible, where anything can happen, people are looking for certainties.”  People today are more interested in exploring drinks that were great in the past, and perhaps improving on them, than creating some new, crazy cocktail.  If ordering a simply Scotch was good enough back in the 60’s, why shouldn’t it be good enough now?

There may also be a trend towards the more straightforward ways of the past.  “I expect mid-century brands and cocktails to continue the climb back to the mainstream as American culture begins to reacquaint itself with authenticity,” said Dean Phillips of Phillips Distilling Company in an article on trends on Signature9.com.   For many it’s not even simply the alcohol involved in these wistful drinks.   As stated in an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on the Pre-Prohibition drink scene, “The fruit juices are fresh-squeezed, not pre-bottled. The bitters are home-mixed, not store-bought.  And the cocktails themselves take five to 10 minutes to prepare…”  Because so many people are going out so much less frequently, it’s drinks like these, prepared with care and the best of the best ingredients, that will get them to splurge a bit and easy their mind a little when they are spending about 19 cents more per cocktail (according to the NRN).

Eventually, the economy will swing back up and new drinks will come along. But for now, the economy has inspired drink trends that will lift your mood and hopefully save your pocket book.

Twists, Turns and Trends for the Modern Food Truck

The original incarnation of a mobile meal was usually a late night last resort or a pit stop for lunch on a busy day, not necessarily somewhere you’d think of waiting in hour-long lines.  They were home to common street fare such as your average hot dog or maybe a generic sandwich.  No longer is any of this the case.   Food carts are now the trendiest hot spot, a place with loyal followers who expect nothing less than gourmet cuisine…at a reasonable price, of course.

FoodTruckToday you can truly get just about any type of delicacy just by walking down the street (and probably waiting anywhere from 10-40 minutes).  An article on Eater.com, says that the Rib Whip truck in San Francisco boasts it’s on-board smoker, to serve up pulled-pork and beef brisket.  To add even more variety to the bunch, Coolhaus, itself peddling gourmet ice cream sandwiches, has developed a food truck…for dogs.  The Phydough Truck, launched on January 8th in Los Angeles, serves up cookies, ice cream and bake-at-home dough in such flavors as Duck Fat, PB & Bacon and Foie Gras, all of which can be eaten by man’s best friend and their human.

Why the sudden shift to mobile food (other than the fabulous fare)?  Like everything else, the economy has had its effect on the restaurant world.  In a Los Angeles Times article, former Hermosa Beach mayor and current owner of Barbie’s Q, John Bowler, said that it cost only about $40,000 to open his truck about $160,000 less than a brick-and-mortar restaurant.   That’s not to mention that while most restaurants stress about location, location, location, if your place is on wheels, you can pick and go where the customers are.

Unique advertising and good timing can also be thanked for the boost in trucks in a downturn economy.  Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites have played a huge part in the transportation food industry.  Owners and workers can simply put up a status with today’s specials or tweet their lunch location, head there with their goods and (TA-DA!) throngs of customers.  Well, there is a bit more to it, but that is the basis of many of these roaming restaurant’s marketing plans.  John Ban, of West Coast Tacos in Indianapolis, said, “Social Networking has been a great advantage for our business because we have not spent any money on marketing.”  He went on to touch on just why this new tech tool is so invaluable.  “We have a more personal relationship with our customers through social media.  It allows us to interact with our fans around the city very easily,” said Ban.  However, like any business, especially a new one, timing is always the easiest in with an audience.  Ban’s West Coast Tacos, saw the food truck boom in other cities, like L.A., and felt the time was right to jump on the chance to be the first to start up the trend in Indy.

If low costs and cheap marketing are making you want to jump in your van and serve up some grub of your own, you may want to first know that there are some significant downsides the non-traditional restaurant scene as well.

The major bump in the road for so many vendors has been getting permits for serving in a vehicle.  Many cities have strict rules about what can and cannot be done inside a vehicle, which can put a damper on serving items that aren’t pre-packaged in a kitchen before the day begins.   In recent weeks, several articles have come up on crack downs on food trucks in Chicago.  One such article, on food.change.org, said that “Chicago officials claim that these anti-food truck ordinances (no altering food and parking up to 200 feet from a restaurant) exist in order to protect consumers’ health and safety.”  However, in Chicago and many other cities, a majority of the squabble has been that restaurant owners worry about having food trucks competition, park right outside their business and taking away customers.

Another obstacle the vehicles face is also due to that wonderful upside mentioned earlier: location.  While it’s beneficial to be able to cruise around to customers, being relatively unsheltered from the elements can pose a few problems.  Going out in the frigid, frosty mess for lunch can be a little less than inviting which cuts down on customers.  In an article in The Washington Post when asked how the cold has affected business, “Operators of four trucks say their sales have dropped by 40 to 50 percent from peak numbers.”  That isn’t even taking into account money lost on food, gas, etc. that must be spent on a daily basis to keep the business going and those inside the trucks warm enough to operate.

So far these obstacles haven’t stopped food truck operators from working on fresh and creative ways to keep on going.  In Oregon, many mobile businesses are attempting to get licensing to sell alcohol, according to OregonLive.com.   The article states that selling brews would give owners of food trucks the chance to “make a living in the increasingly crowded Portland food-cart industry while also attracting customers to neighboring mobile restaurants.”   And while not a possibility at the moment, there may even come a day when a restaurant may not only sport wheels, but also wings.  Recently an article on Curbed Los Angeles even reported that an architecture class at USC, taught by Jennifer Siegal, challenged students to create the future of the business.  Submissions included everything from wings that caught rain water for future use to a donut delivery system that will drive over a car and drop in pastries and coffee.

Until wings can be made small enough to prevent trucks from hitting passersby, before a new super social media site is created and pending any delicious new delicacies, the success of food trucks today and in the future can be summed up with this advice, courtesy of John Ban:  “Make sure your product is of very high quality, because the number one reason why our business grew was because our Tacos were made from the best ingredients and meats. This created numerous return customers for us and they spread the word about our Taco Truck. Word of mouth is the strongest form of marketing. People always listen to recommendations from another person, but people don’t always pay attention to commercials or advertisements.”