Attract New Drinkers with Flavor-Forward, Sessionable Trending Beverages

Learn more about Invite In, the first recommendation of Anheuser-Busch’s IGNITE initiative

For new consumers of legal drinking age, learning to navigate the alcohol menu is like learning a new language—and choosing between styles, flavors and price points can feel like a shot in the dark. Even consumers who have years of experience in the alcohol beverage category may see certain beverage styles as foreign territory. A seasoned wine connoisseur, for example, may be less familiar with beer and may avoid the section altogether simply because they don’t know how to choose the right beverage for their tastes and preferences.

That’s where IGNITE, Anheuser-Busch’s comprehensive strategy for driving category growth across total alcohol, comes in. The first pillar of the IGNITE strategy is getting the fundamentals right. The second pillar, Invite In, is backed by Anheuser-Busch’s expansive research into consumer preferences, ordering behaviors and drinking occasions. Two main consumer demographics are the focus: new drinkers of legal drinking age (LDAs) and non-beer drinkers, especially women.

Drive growth by inviting new 21+ drinkers into the category

IGNITE helps restaurants understand diners’ drinking preferences and uses insights to inform menu options and promotion, encouraging more orders in the short term and converting lifetime beer drinkers for long-term growth.

Savor the Flavor

Flavor-forward beverages from the Beyond Beer category, such as seltzers, ciders, RTDs, flavored malt beverages and cheladas, are star players in category expansion for retailers. In fact, IGNITE reports that Beyond Beer beverage sales make up 38% of growth in beer sales.

The first growth driver in the IGNITE strategy, Invite In provides recommendations on how to attract new drinkers (consumers of legal drinking age, or LDAs, and women) to the category with on-trend, flavor-forward Beyond Beer styles that are especially likely to appeal to new 21+ consumers. These easy-to-drink, lighter, flavor-forward beverages represent a new and incremental growth opportunity for the beer category.

Attracting LDAs and women to beer and Beyond Beer

LDAs and women show an especially strong potential for growth within the flavor-forward hard beverage segment.  These demographics are seeking sweeter, easier-to-drink alcohol choices. Household penetration of FMB, cider, and fruit/shandy beers is highest with 21- to 34-year-old households, while the exact opposite is true for lagers. This trend carries into the wine segment, where the sweeter styles, such as moscato, riesling, and rosé, have the highest HH penetration with 21-34-year olds. Additionally, 52% of women report preferring the taste of wine because of its ‘sweetness and balance’.

As these demographics seek out on-trend flavor, sweetness, and easier-to-drink beverages, they can incorrectly deselect the beer category, assuming a bitter taste that does not match their taste preferences.

By offering familiar flavors as well as newly trending beverages in the beer and Beyond Beer categories, restaurants can provide an accessible starting point for new drinkers beginning to branch out. Diners come for the new experiences and approachable flavors, and they stay for the new favorite beverages they discover. By highlighting approachability and sessionability, restaurant operators can more easily attract 21+ diners to hard beverages.

While tap handles are often what direct consumers and draw them in, table signage as well as menu inserts can help guide diners’ choices.

Flavor is the clear leader when it comes to choosing a hard beverage

flavor chart 

Source: Mintel RTD Beverage report, Dec 2018

Menu optimization goes a long way

It’s not enough for restaurants to simply carry trending and innovative beverages.  Effective menu placement, highlighting bestsellers and educating on taste profile, can be key to encouraging more orders.  

Consumers want more information from menus to make decisions that enhance their experience

60% of consumers look at a drink menu before ordering, and almost half of those consumers prefer to see the beer menu first.* 

69% of consumers are influenced by recommendations from menu pairings.** 

Understanding and highlighting the right attributes on menus that are important to diners can lead to higher purchase intent for the beer category.

Menus should be organized based on how diners think about the beer segment. Anheuser-Busch research has found that taste profile is the first thing consumers look for. In other words, diners know whether they want something sweet, light and refreshing, or something savory and complex. Organize the menu so these choices are easy to find and decide from.

It is also essential that staff are well educated on the beer category.  Diners see bartenders and servers as experts on the menu.  Bar staff need to be well educated on key attributes of each product, including color, flavor, body, and other individual attributes such as brand heritage.

With each new trend in alcohol comes a new opportunity to convert a lifelong customer, and with IGNITE, restaurant operators can learn which styles and categories appeal to new drinkers and how to maximize the appeal of these products on the menu. To learn more about IGNITE and to build customized strategies to invite new 21+ drinkers to the category, contact your local Anheuser-Busch Category Management representative.  Click below to learn more about the other objectives in the IGNITE strategy, expanding consumption and driving trade up.

* Mintel: Beer and Craft Beer US – October 2017

** EyeSee Menu Study 2020