Trends From the 30th Annual Nightclub & Bar Show


The 30th annual Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show celebrated in Las Vegas this spring highlighted growing trends worth noting in Canada, with more than 700 suppliers and thousands of new products for the nearly 40,000 attendees to check out. F&H gleaned five beverage and business trends from the show:

Flavour Counts
Apple and honey are being introduced into everything this year — from whisky to rye, rum, vodka, moonshine and tequila. “An apple influence is from cider, which is by far the fastest-growing beverage segment,” said Jeff Cioletti, editor-at-large of New York’s Beverage World magazine and author of The Year of Drinking Adventurously, while speaking at the show.

“We are seeing some brewers using apple in beer as a crossover beverage to play meaningfully in between traditional beers and ciders. Redd’s Apple Ale from Chicago’s MillerCoors is just one of these products. When it comes to moonshine, apple pie is not only tradition, it also factors into appeal and drinkability. Honey has resurged in mead and is gaining traction in whisky and tequila. Whisky lends itself to honey, which complements the flavours of rye and bourbon.”

Meanwhile, mixologists are adding essences and botanicals to their arsenals to make more complex drinks that stand out. Used for finishing touches, craft bitters add depth and complexity to a drink, while using cilantro sugar or basil salt to rim the glass of a fine cocktail, for example, boosts its appeal.

Craft Everything
Craft coffee, craft cocktails, craft bitters, craft beer and even craft ice is proving small artisan producers are gaining credibility. “As baby boomers get older it’s about quality of life and enjoying responsibly,” explains Manuel Barreira, managing director, Global Wine Merchants in Burnaby, B.C. “Today, we see small companies producing quality niche products. Fifteen years ago, these small production companies would not have been able to compete. Today they can, because they offer an experience, not just a product.” Consumers can now learn about the history of the product and the story behind its inception.

Embrace Retro-Cool
There’s a re-emergence of the traditional beverages your grandfather drank. Moonshine, bitters, cider, mead, even old-fashioned ginger ale are back. This trend is emerging from a maturing generation with a renewed interest in quality, as well as a newer generation looking for retro-cool beverages. “Consumer segments are looking for redesigns and reinvigoration of proven traditional concepts,” affirms Grant MacPherson, a renowned chef and F&B consultant at Las Vegas-based Scotch Myst.

Engage Technology
Technology continues to attract attention. For example, The Amsterdam, Netherlands-based Heineken’s BrewLock Draft Technology is a new keg, which preserves freshness and can be used to ship product globally with a smaller carbon footprint than traditional kegs. Alternatively, Charlottetown-based Smartbrew introduced its turnkey brewery/brew pub solution — it fits an entire micro-brewery into a 100-sq.-ft. area. This leasable solution comes complete with technical support and guidance for operators, regardless of brewing skill level.

Ramp Up Social Media
Bar operators need to maintain their social-media reputation. New apps are helping them extend their reach and enhance their market intelligence. For example, selfie and Twitter contests can help operators build content at a very low cost.
In that same vein, big data continues to be an important theme. Many new upstart companies, such as Providence, R.I.-based Swipely, have released technology, which offers business analytics to help operators understand their customers, and social customer-relationship-management apps such as Glistrr are gaining popularity. Meanwhile, geo-fencing — which tracks consumer movements within a virtually defined geographic area — is also on the radar, although most social-media companies aren’t yet ready to roll it out to bar or restaurant settings. l


Story and photography by: Jeffrey W. Stewart is associate dean of Hospitality at Niagara College Canada in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. His 30-year career has included work at F&B operations, research, teaching, curriculum development as well as consulting for hotels, restaurants, food manufacturers, hospitals, higher education and correctional facilities domestically and abroad.

Written By: Jeffrey W. Stewart

Volume 48, Number 5

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