Bacardi prepares for a new era of summer socialising

Bacardi has launched a number of initiatives to help bar owners and retailers make the most of a new era of summer socialising.

The family-owned spirits producer recently unveiled a scheme called Bring The Bar Home for the on-trade in Western Europe. It provides bar owners with all the help and support they need to develop their cocktail takeaway offerings and capitalise upon delivery opportunities.

Jacob Briars, global advocacy director at Bacardi, told Drinks International: “Our insights show the cocktail-to-go category is worth a potential €1.1bn by 2024 in Western Europe, so we want to help bars tap into this huge new opportunity. 

“Following months of quarantine with limited social gatherings, we know people are really excited to be able to meet up with friends and family over a drink and to reconnect again.

“It’s a powerful human need and it is role that bars have played for many years. We see that continuing, with some changes of course. But there is a strong eagerness among the public to adapt to the new normal and spend their summer meeting up with friends and family for food and drink, and this could be a big summer even though it will also be a strange one. There is strong desire to meet up outdoors, which will mean some adaptation for bars.”

Research commissioned by Bacardi suggests that 39% of British consumers plan to spend more time socialising and enjoying drinks outdoors this summer compared to last year. This month it teamed up with Perspectus Global to poll 1,000 Brits aged 25 and over on their summer drinking plans.

Participants plan to spend 16 hours per week socialising outdoors this summer, with more than 70% saying that staying in the open air is the easiest way to ensure social distancing during this age of contagion.

More than 60% said they plan to enjoy a cocktail or mocktail outside as part of their summer plans, while 25% of survey participants said they would bring their own ingredients to prepare them and a fifth planned to make a batch of cocktails at home to enjoy outside with friends. These insights are likely to translate to other countries around the world.

“If they can, bars should tap into the summer trading opportunity by investing in their outdoor offerings including terraces or other outdoor spaces – whatever seating you can put outside will quickly pay for itself,” said Briars. “Bars should also meet consumer needs with home delivery and cocktails-to-go, offering easy opportunities for guests and locals to enjoy a physically distanced drink. 

“During the lockdown, cocktails-to-go and home delivery were temporary measures, which are fast becoming permanent additions to day-to-day business. We know that spending time with friends and family is top of the agenda this summer for people in the US and those we surveyed in Western Europe.

“After several months of making their own drinks at home and having virtual gatherings, consumers will prioritise meeting up in the real world – ideally outdoors where possible – and to enjoy a bar-quality drink, so investing in cocktails-to-go is a huge new opportunity for bars.

“From slushie machines for frozen Bacardí Piña Coladas and Patrón frozen Margaritas for the hotter weather, to serving cocktails in 100% recyclable pouches, and bars finding unique ways to serve their signature drinks in new formats, we’re already seeing bartenders create some amazing offerings and I can’t wait to see where this trend takes us.”

Bacardi launched a $4 million fund to support bartenders and bar owners when the coronavirus lockdown forced them to temporarily shut up shop earlier this year. The #RaiseYourSpirits initiative has seen the firm launch partnerships and provide financial aid to non-profit organizations such as Another Round, Another Rally; CORE; the James Beard Foundation; Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation; Tales of the Cocktail; the United States Bartender Guild and other local groups around the world.

“We’ve consciously directed our support towards grassroots to make sure we’re helping those who need it most,” said Briars. “From commissioning bartenders to create ‘how to’ cocktail-making videos, to hiring them for future events and paying in advance, we wanted to give something back to the bartending community whose support over the past 158 years has been so crucial to our success. 

“We’ve launched Bring The Bar Home in Western Europe, and in the UK we partnered with Deliveroo Editions to create their first-ever virtual bar. That was really exciting because we were able to bring something entirely new to cocktail-lovers in the UK, working with over 120 bars in London and Manchester to deliver their fantastic cocktails during lockdown.”

Now it aims to provide bar owners with certain tools to help them thrive during this new era of physical distancing and outdoor socialising. “We’re providing bar owners with the technology for in-app ordering via menus with QR codes, to reduce contact between bartenders and guests, and in the UK, we’re supplying 150 Bacardi ‘Party in a box’ activation kits, complete with hand sanitizer from our Bombay Sapphire distillery, Bacardi deck chairs, drum box chairs and coconut cups. 

“Bacardi rum has also launched a brand-new Snapchat lens in the UK, which uses augmented reality to create a fun, digital experience in the pub garden, which is only activated when fellow guests are at the correct social-distance. Last but not least, we’re also helping to drive footfall through our ‘Back to the Bar’ initiative. Across Western Europe, where it’s safe to do so, all 2,500 Bacardi employees will be buying a cocktail for themselves and three friends or family members, and Bacardi will pick up the tab. That’s 10,000 people getting back out to the bar.”

Bacardi has a strong on-trade presence, but it has also ramped up its focus on ecommerce during the pandemic. Drinks International also caught up with Mike Birch, the firm’s vice president for digital commerce, to learn more about the challenges that drinks brands face when it comes to interacting and communicating with consumers in a digital environment, and how recent technological advances can help overcome them

“At Bacardi we are proud of how we bring our brands to life in person through events and partnering with our customers in the on and off-premise,” said Birch. “However, recent events have opened new and exciting ways we can communicate with our consumers. We are connecting with consumers by bringing them richer content for inspiration and information on our brands and converting this to commerce in new ways.

“We led the way in live streaming at scale with our Amazon live whisky tasting partnership last year, when we pre-sold tasting packs and steamed a tutored tasting led by Stephanie Macleod, our master distiller, direct from our distillery at Aberfeldy in Scotland, watched live by around 50,000 people in the UK and Germany.  

“Our brands have been regularly interacting with consumers through digital platforms throughout this time. For example, we have worked with on-trade accounts to host virtual tastings and masterclasses.”

One initiative saw Joe McCanta, Bacardi’s global head of education and mixology, partner with London-based bar Grind for an Instagram live masterclass in celebration of World Cocktail Day, teaching viewers how to make a range of cocktails featuring Bacardi portfolio products.

“We ran a piece of research at the time to understand the most popular lockdown cocktails and, keeping the consumer at the heart, we themed the drinks in that virtual masterclass to align with the top lockdown cocktails from that survey,” said Birch. “Viewers tuned in to enjoy the making of cocktails including the Espresso Martini using Grey Goose and the Mojito with Bacardi Carta Blanca. 

“Previously, a challenge would have been connecting the route to purchase with our campaigns. Now that consumers are growing more au fait with purchasing spirits online and with the use of swipe up purchase links though our ecommerce partners, we are able to connect the dots for our consumer to enjoy our products, delivered directly to their home.”

Birch said that all of Bacardi’s brands, and in particular core brands such as Bacardi rums, Grey Goose vodka, Bombay Sapphire gin and Patrón tequila, have performed “very strongly” in ecommerce channels across the world this year.

“Many of them saw triple-digit growth during the lockdowns that have happened across the globe and whilst sales are slowing from these highs, as countries open up again, we are seeing growth at higher levels as consumer behaviour has changed,” he added. “We have especially benefitted from a spike in interest in making cocktails at home during this period which we again expect to influence future consumer behaviour as many consumers have become more adventurous and proficient.

“The US team moved very quickly to exploit this trend and built an integrated ecommerce program around World Cocktail Day, partnering with Cocktail Courier and with custom social content garnered more than 10 million impressions and 137,000 engagements.”

Bacardi has sought to make it as easy as possible for consumers to buy RTD cocktails such as Bombay Sapphire and tonic, Bacardi Mojito and Bacardi Lime & Soda via online retailers such as Drizly, Amazon and the major multiple retailers.

“As a company we have a long history of partnering with on-premise operators and during the Covid-19 outbreaks we have worked hard to support the on-premise, including initiatives in many markets to work with bars and restaurants to get their signature cocktails delivered to people’s homes when they have not been able to visit these outlets,” said Birch. “This is opening new ecommerce opportunities for bars in the future.

“At the same time, we see ecommerce as a great way to remove friction for consumers to learn more about and buy our brands, providing them with new and fun solutions for making drinks at home. This aligns to the macro growth trends of cocktail culture and home entertaining and ecommerce will facilitate further interest and growth in this space. We fully intend to be creative and invest behind accelerating these trends.”

Bacardi believes ecommerce can boost consumer education along with sales of its brands, so it is constantly focusing on new ways to help consumers discover its products in the digital sphere.

“For many consumers, ecommerce makes it easier and more convenient to not only buy our brands with a few clicks online, delivered to their door. But the digital commerce ecosystem also makes it much easier to learn more about our brands, how to make our signature serves and of course can offer a much wider choice. Many of our smaller fast growing brands such as St Germain or Aberfeldy Malt Whisky are much more accessible to consumers. We have launched many initiatives to exploit this and provide new and exciting ways to discover our products.”

One example is The Patrón Pantry, designed to deliver Patrón drinking experiences for at-home consumption. Bacardi teamed up with Amazon to deliver three simple recipes using common grocery ingredients found in the pantry. The Patrón Pantry can be found on the Amazon Brand Store, and each recipe is bundled for easy at home cocktails.

Birch believes that the lockdown will cause a permanent shift in the way consumers buy spirits, and that they will continue buying more online and drinking more at home in future.

“We are seeing that in our sales data and we know it’s driven ecommerce penetration,” he said. “For example, in China there has been a shift in over 40s using ecommerce and in North America consumers perhaps didn’t realise they could purchase spirits online. We are witnessing consumer behaviour changing for good.

“Lockdown has accelerated an educational shift in the way people buy spirits online. People now know they can buy spirits and cocktails online and have them delivered easily direct to their door, whether it’s purchasing spirits via platforms like Amazon, Drizly or from supermarket delivery services. This knowledge is now fixed across markets and we will continue to see consumers buy spirits in this way, however as markets open up and there are more opportunities for people to return to bars and restaurants, we expect to see this growth level out.”