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2021 Bar & Bev Trend Report: with RC Show Experts

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As our industry teeters on reopening, provinces across the country deal with varying degrees of lockdown, and consumer habits and tastes adjust accordingly, operators need to ensure they’re preparing for reopening and everything that entails.

Not only do they need to install operational changes, but they need to stock their menus with ingredients, brands, and products that are meeting consumer needs in this ‘new normal’.

We tapped four RC Show experts for a trend report and a forecast into the bar & bev industry for 2021.

Scroll through or click on the names below to jump to their Q&A.

Frank Polley, VP of Trade Marketing at Tito’s Handmade Vodka

Steve Zmudczynski, National Vice President of Sales, On-Premise and Emerging Growth, Molson Coors Beverage Company

Evelyn Chick, Founder, Evelyn Chick Projects

Grant Sceney, Creative Beverage Director for Fairmont Pacific Rim


Frank Polley, VP of Trade Marketing at Tito’s Handmade Vodka

Frank Polley, VP of Trade Marketing at Tito’s Handmade Vodka

What do you think consumers will be looking for in the next year in the bar/bev space?

With limited access to bars over the past year and a slow return to on-premise businesses, we believe consumers are looking forward to being out with their friends and family once it is safe to do so. New cocktails combined with classic go-to drinks will make it easy to celebrate together again. We’ll likely see more experimenting with cocktail ingredients as people feel more comfortable with the environment near the end of this year and into 2022.

What ingredients/flavours do you think will rise in popularity in the coming year?

In the vodka category, we continue to see growth in mixing with espresso, elderflower, orange liqueur, and cranberry. Some additional ingredients that will remain popular for years to come are salt, grapefruit, cucumber, peach, and berry.

We’ve seen some culinary trends rise this year in 2020 with the pandemic (i.e. comfort foods), what trends did we see this past year in Bar & Bev and will they/how will they continue in 2021?

Similarly, we have seen scaled back drink menus offering the house favorites. Bars and restaurants are pairing cocktails with food menu items making it easy to enjoy them at the account or to-go!

Steve Zmudczynski, National Vice President of Sales, On-Premise and Emerging Growth, Molson Coors Beverage Company

Steve Zmudczynski, National Vice President of Sales, On-Premise and Emerging Growth, Molson Coors Beverage Company

What do you think consumers will be looking for in the next year in the bar/bev space?

The next year will be a journey in building consumer trust to get back to their favourite spots. Having clear protocols and making patrons feel safe will be an important part of their overall experience in the beginning, but also critical in the longer-term path to relaxing some of the anxious social behaviours we’ve developed throughout the pandemic. 

Once patrons start coming back and the initial novelty of being able to do something “normal” again (like socializing with friends off-screen) wears, they’ll look for more from bars and restaurants to keep them coming back versus retreating to the creature comforts of home. They need to feel that what they’re getting outside is not something they can recreate inside – be that food, ambiance, draught quality beer, live entertainment/experiences, or other.

What ingredients/flavours do you think will rise in popularity in the coming year?

Flavour continues on the up because drinkers enjoy growing their repertoire and having a beverage or a flavour of choice for different occasions. We see classics like citrus and berry still ranking high in popularity in both beer and ready-to-drink, but consumers are also open to experimenting with flavours and combinations they haven’t seen before. By way of ingredients, consumers are demanding more of their products through high quality, ethically-sourced ingredients – we’re seeing it clearly in the rising demand for premium products and organic products.

We’ve seen some culinary trends rise this year in 2020 with the pandemic (i.e. comfort foods), what trends did we see this past year in Bar & Bev and will they/how will they continue in 2021?

In times of uncertainty, people turn to what they know, what they love, and what they trust. We saw, especially at the onset of the pandemic, that consumers were showing preference towards familiar brands like Coors Light or Molson Canadian. As the summer came around and new innovations or flavours presented themselves, consumers were excited to experiment and add something new to the mix. More broadly for the bev-alc industry, Seltzers, in particular, are booming and that’s going to continue in 2021. And finally, e-commerce accelerated beyond what anyone would have imagined through 2020, which we believe will continue in 2021 and represent between 5-15% of total sales in the OP channel – establishments will need to continue progressing with e-comm through food bundles, features and other.
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Be sure to get tickets for the upcoming RC Show 2021 to gain access to the Beer CEO Panel: Business Building Beer Insights on the Bar & Bev Stage and hear from Molson Coors Canada President & CEO Frederic Landtmeters.

Evelyn Chick, Founder, Evelyn Chick Projects

Evelyn Chick, Founder, Evelyn Chick Projects

What do you think consumers will be looking for in the next year in the bar/bev space?

I think the experience of a bar will be drastically different in the coming year than it has been previously. There should be a focus on the health and safety of the patrons, as well as more unique serves that perhaps require less interaction with the serving staff.

The dynamic between over-the-bar service will also be different, depending on the restrictions of each individual venue. Knowing that there are a few bars and restaurants that have opened in Asia and in Europe during the pandemic, it seems to have curated some experiences that are individualized to the group.

I remember when patios were allowed to open, a few venues got creative and build yurts, glasshouses, domes, etc. to enhance the guest experience while keeping them socially distant. I think being able to make their experience unique in that sense while keeping those protocols in mind will be of importance.

What ingredients/flavours do you think will rise in popularity in the coming year?

With the world being physically apart, people are actually more connected together online and are able to explore different cultures virtually – something where they previously may have overlooked. With notions of trying to create diverse and inclusive spaces, I think there would be a focus on international flavors, but highlighting locally sourced-ingredients. Unique serving vessels that allow for a full experience hand at your own table would also rise in popularity, as I mentioned in the previous answer about spatial awareness.

We’ve seen some culinary trends rise this year in 2020 with the pandemic (i.e. comfort foods), what trends did we see this past year in the bar & bev industry and will they/how will they continue in 2021?

The no to low ABV movement isn’t going away, more and more non-alcoholic and spirit free options are coming out of the woodwork – think interesting kombuchas, drinking vinegars, even cold brew nitro teas, highlighting different textures without the alcohol. In Ontario, bars and restaurants are finally allowed to serve alcohol to-go, and even serve mixed cocktails to go. I think this is a really big move from the government and the AGCO, allowing for more accessible cocktails to reach the consumers’ hands. Instead of having to buy a few bottles of rare amaros and additives that are higher price-point, they can now experiment with different flavours that are already bottled for them at home, without having to break the bank. As someone who has created a platform for consumers to understand the workings of cocktails behind the scenes, I feel like the simplicity of three-four ingredient, well thought out cocktails are going to come back in a drastic way, similarly to comfort foods in the culinary world. People like to feel a sense of nostalgia, something that is greatly executed but approachable.

Since 2018, Evelyn Chick has worked with RC Show as a Bar & Beverage Curator. We’re proud to welcome her back once again for RC Show 2021 ONLINE LIVE. This year, as with others, Evelyn will be ensuring the Bar & Bev Stage content is world-class and cutting-edge. Check out the Bar & Bev programming for 2021 at rcshow.com.

Grant Sceney, Creative Beverage Director for Fairmont Pacific Rim

Grant Sceney, Creative Beverage Director for Fairmont Pacific Rim


What do you think consumers will be looking for in the next year in the bar/bev space?

Normalcy to some level, this will be a long way off but people are looking to return to a safe bar/restaurant environment and interact with their friends again. They want to meet new people outside of a zoom call and have genuine interactions.

What ingredients/flavours do you think will rise in popularity in the coming year?

This is a difficult one to predict, but low alcohol cocktails will still be an ongoing trend. So low ABV spirits, vermouths aperitifs, etc. but the big one will be the continued rise in non-alcoholic spirits and cocktails.

We’ve seen some culinary trends rise this year in 2020 with the pandemic (i.e. comfort foods), what trends did we see this past year in the bar & bev industry and will they/how will they continue in 2021?

Comfort cocktails and ‘to-go’ cocktails/cocktail kits will continue to grow. You have some talented bartenders having the time to put together ingredients for your home that they never previously would have shared. Some provinces have relaxed the rules in to go alcohol and I think it is an opportunity for people to have great cocktail food experiences at home even after this pandemic is over.

RC Show 2020 was treated to cocktails made by Grant Sceney and the Botanist at Hotel Fairmont Pacific Rim team in the Pop Up Restaurant & Bar. Check out Bar & Bev programming at RC Show 2021 ONLINE LIVE at rcshow.com.

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