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Champagne Pivots with the Pandemic

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Hamptons restaurateur Ian Duke is decking the front yard of his establishment with tons of bright and cheerful orange umbrellas that symbolize Veuve Clicquot champagne.

Duke owns Union Sushi and Steak, a Southampton restaurant that is working to jump-start champagne consumption after what has been a difficult year for the champagne industry. 

“When you open a restaurant, you have to decide who you are going to cater to,” explains Duke, who is catering to the kind of diner who is determined not to let the pandemic ruin their summer. 

In 2020, French winemakers and grape farmers under the Comité Champagne cut production down to the lowest levels since the Great Depression. That is how hard the year was for the champagne industry. There wasn’t much celebration going on in 2020. An 18% slump in global champagne sales cost the industry above $1 billion. 

The festivals and celebrations, duty-free airport promotions, and bottomless brunches that had champagne as a mainstay could not be relied on anymore. 

Champagne brands are now zeroing in on resort sites like Berkshires and the Hamptons to keep themselves going. 

They are partnering with restaurants, nightclubs, party planners, bars, and fundraisers to quickly make sales and turn around their fortunes. 

High-end resorts all over the Northeast are witnessing alliances between champagne makers and the hospitality industry to push sales of the bubbly drink.

At the Southampton Inn, proprietor Dede Gotthelf says that after they set up a fridge by the front desk, guests started asking for sparkling wines and champagnes. Gotthelf has seen an estimated 10% increase in grab-and-go drinks supplied to rooms directly. 

Meanwhile, Daniel Boulud who runs Blantyre Resort in Massachusets has put up a Dom Perignon-inspired champagne salon. The salon is fitted with a caviar menu and a Baccarat chandelier. 

A few Champagne makers are offering restaurants and bars more incentives. Chef and restaurant owner Salvatore Biundo has taken advantage of the incentives to create a successful Mother’s Day menu. He says Champagne offerings go up to ten from as low as four at his Hamptons Bay’ Centro Trattoria.

Biundo has found that by making Champagne more visible, sales have gone up. He has introduced a piazza deck complete with a piano and fountain. Customers are indulging in champagne as they wait for a table. “They’re getting a $37 Blanc instead of a $13 prosecco. Hey, I’m not complaining,” says Biundo. 

These higher Champagne sales are evident on weekdays as well as weekends, as one Montauk restaurant has witnessed. La Fin is a waterside restaurant that boasts among its offerings a daily ‘recovery brunch’ and stocks a wide range of champagne brands. Prices are set at $68 for the cheapest to $488 for the most expensive. 

The Southern Glazer is the second leading distributor of liquor in the US. According to the Southern Glazer SVP Lee Schrager, exactly one year ago, the company had seen 160,000 of their nightclub, bar, and restaurant accounts vanish. 

Now the company is preparing for the Bubble Q hosted by Guy Fieri – one of the most important Champagne events in the US. The Bubble Q was part of the Miami South Beach Wine and Food Festival, and Schrager is one of the festival founders. 

Moët & Chandon will be the event sponsors, something they have not done for 10 years. The brand will donate 360 cases of champagne. Even better, most of the 160,000 accounts that the Southern Glazer lost are back to working with them. 

 Champagne is an ageless drink. Now that more and more people are drinking at home thanks to the pandemic, the hospitality industry is hoping that these at-home drinkers will go for something lighter and more festive … something like Champagne. 

Lawrence Scott, an event planner says that champagne lends elegance to an event:  “Drop two raspberries into a Champagne flute, and the guy holding it sticks out his pinkie and thinks he’s elegant.” 

This summer, champagne producers are particularly keen to see their Champagne brand crowned the drink. There are still many venues that work without a complete bar. 

Cocktail hours often involve patrons sitting down, with servers circulating a tray with one kind of drink Sometimes rolling carts are serving up just a couple of liquor brands.

According to La Caravelle wines ‘chief bubble officer’ Rita Jammet, there has been a clear and strong buying pattern from female customers. Jammet who heads the boutique champagne variety sold at Le Pavillon, a new eatery. 

La Caravelle engaged female customers during the pandemic with Zoom cooking lessons as well as Goldbely promotions featuring Laurent Tourondel, Marcus Samuelsson, and Gabriel Kreuther, all top chefs. 

La Caravelle’s splits and champagne have won the hearts of many female customers. The champagne rose has already achieved half of last year’s sales between January and April alone. 

Jammet says that customers resonate with the optimism and joy that the brand evokes. “The color brings joy and optimism, which we have badly needed throughout the pandemic,” she adds.

Restaurant owners are more than ready to welcome a champagne comeback. Abraham Merchant who owns Upper East Side establishment Phillippe says it best:  “Once [diners] start their meal with a glass of Champagne, they move on to a glass of wine, and then they’ll be drinking all night long.”

Wine, Beer, Spirits

Diageo Revolutionizes Cocktail Culture with AI-Powered Recipe Recommendations

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In a groundbreaking move set to transform the cocktail industry, Diageo has unveiled a cutting-edge digital platform that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to provide personalized cocktail recommendations. The platform, aptly named “What’s Your Cocktail,” employs Flavourprint technology to analyze individual taste preferences and suggest bespoke drink recipes tailored to each user. This innovative approach marks a significant step forward in the integration of AI within the food and beverage sector.

The introduction of AI in cocktail crafting is not just a novelty; it represents a broader trend of technological advancements shaping the future of culinary experiences. According to the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, the use of AI in food and beverage personalization has been gaining momentum, with applications ranging from meal planning to flavor pairing.

Diageo’s initiative is particularly noteworthy due to its sophisticated use of Flavourprint technology. This technology creates a unique “flavor fingerprint” for each user, taking into account their preferences for sweet, sour, bitter, and umami tastes. By doing so, it can recommend cocktail recipes that are not only innovative but also highly tailored to the individual’s palate. As highlighted by Diageo, the platform’s ability to curate such personalized experiences is expected to enhance consumer engagement and satisfaction significantly.

The development of “What’s Your Cocktail” is a testament to Diageo’s commitment to embracing technological advancements. In a statement, Diageo emphasized that the platform is designed to help users explore a wide range of cocktail recipes that they might not have considered otherwise. This aligns with broader industry trends where AI is used to expand consumers’ culinary horizons and introduce them to new and exciting flavors.

Industry experts have praised Diageo’s initiative, noting its potential to revolutionize how consumers interact with cocktail recipes. According to the National Restaurant Association, the use of AI in the food and beverage industry is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years, driven by increasing demand for personalized dining experiences and efficient service delivery.

Moreover, Diageo’s platform comes at a time when the cocktail culture is experiencing a renaissance, with consumers increasingly seeking unique and customized drinking experiences. The integration of AI technology not only meets this demand but also sets a new standard for innovation in the industry. As Food & Wine Magazine reports, the rise of craft cocktails and artisanal spirits has heightened consumer expectations, making technological advancements like Diageo’s a crucial element in staying competitive.

In conclusion, Diageo’s “What’s Your Cocktail” platform represents a significant leap forward in the intersection of technology and culinary arts. By harnessing the power of AI to deliver personalized cocktail recommendations, Diageo is setting a new benchmark for the industry and paving the way for future innovations in food and beverage personalization. This development not only enhances the consumer experience but also underscores the transformative potential of AI in shaping the future of dining and drinking.

For more information on this exciting development, you can read the original article on The Spirits Business.

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Wine, Beer, Spirits

SommCon 2024: A Premier Gathering for Wine, Beer, and Spirits Professionals in San Diego

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SommCon®, the leading symposium for wine, beer, and spirits professionals, has officially announced its return to the vibrant city of San Diego, California. Scheduled from October 5-7, 2024, at the Town & Country Resort, this preeminent event is gearing up to offer an unparalleled immersive experience into the world of beverage. Having established a strong community of beverage trailblazers over nearly a decade, SommCon® presents an unmatched platform for on- and off-premise buyers, wholesalers, importers, distributors, sommeliers, beverage directors, educators, and media.

The 2024 conference promises over 30 workshops and master classes across six diverse tracks, including Advanced Tasting Techniques, Beer & Spirits, Climate & Sustainability, Financial Acumen & Business Management, Professional Development, and Regional Explorations. These sessions are designed to foster both personal and professional growth in the beverage industry.

With a notable increase in attendance and brand participation in the previous year, the SommCon Beverage Expo returns with a robust marketplace. This segment of the event will connect over 1,000 on- and off-premise buyers, importers, and distributors with domestic and international producers. The trade show is set to feature innovation zones and educational stages, a Craft Producers Pavilion, facilitated buyer-supplier meetings, and showcases of 2024 Concours d’Spirits and Concours d’Vin medal winners. Additionally, the Bottle Shot Lounge will offer producers the opportunity to obtain professional product photography, enhancing their brand visibility.

Several new experiences await attendees at the 2024 Conference & Beverage Expo. A Hosted Buyer Program invites professional alcohol beverage buyers to apply for a complimentary full conference pass, including travel and accommodations. The Women in Craft Forum, hosted by the Craft Beverage Expo, will focus on the pivotal role of women in the craft beverage industry, offering a day of education centered around business development and expansion.

Furthermore, a Career Coaching & Resource Center will provide resources for those looking to advance their beverage careers. This space will include career coaching, resume workshops, mentorship, a professional headshot studio, and brand partners offering training for continuing education and certifications. Attendees can also look forward to engaging in Fun & Games, including trivia, spelling bees, and blind tasting battles, designed to foster networking in a competitive yet enjoyable atmosphere.

The BevTech Showcase will introduce cutting-edge technology brands revolutionizing the beverage industry, offering insights into the intersection of technology and the professional alcohol beverage industry. The Content & Creator Studio will provide a bespoke filming environment for brands and creators to collaborate, producing high-quality educational content, industry podcasts, and more.

The event will take place at the iconic Town & Country Resort in San Diego, a property known for its retro charm and comprehensive facilities. With newly renovated guestrooms, a resort-style pool, award-winning on-property dining, and extensive meeting and event space, the venue promises an exceptional experience for all attendees.

Registration for the SommCon Conference & Beverage Expo is now open, with details and sign-up information available on their website. As the premier gathering for professionals in the wine, beer, and spirits industry, SommCon® offers unparalleled opportunities for education, networking, and career development.

SommCon® is a trademark of Fast Forward, an event production house specializing in consumer and business events in wine, beer, spirits, culinary, and hospitality. The conference and expo are produced in partnership with The SOMM Journal, featuring the Concours d’Spirits and Concours d’Vin competitions, and SommGo, an on-demand streaming service with educational content for the global wine, beer, and spirits industry.

As the beverage industry continues to evolve, SommCon® remains at the forefront, providing a dynamic platform for learning, growth, and innovation. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or new to the field, the 2024 conference and expo promise to be an invaluable experience for all who attend.

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Wine, Beer, Spirits

The Resilient Rise of Spirits: Outpacing Beer and Wine in Market Share

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In an era where consumer preferences are rapidly evolving, the spirits industry has remarkably maintained its edge over beer and wine, marking the second consecutive year of its market share dominance. Despite facing the headwinds of high inflation and rising interest rates, which have generally dampened discretionary spending, the spirits sector’s resilience is noteworthy. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), U.S. spirits revenue saw a modest increase of 0.2% in 2023, reaching $37.7 billion. This growth, albeit slight, underscores the industry’s ability to navigate through economic uncertainties and consumer shifts, outpacing beer and wine sales by 0.4% and 26.1%, respectively.

The pandemic era brought about a significant surge in alcohol consumption, with many turning to premium spirits as a form of indulgence during lockdowns. Vodka retained its position as the top-selling spirit, while tequila and mezcal not only secured the second spot but also widened their lead over American whiskey. The categories of tequila, mezcal, blended whiskey, and American whiskey emerged as the fastest-growing in terms of revenue, signaling a shift in consumer tastes towards more diverse and premium spirits.

Despite the overall market’s modest growth, the premium segment of the spirits industry faced challenges. Major players like Diageo, LVMH, and Constellation Brands reported weaknesses in their premium spirits and wine segments. Diageo, for instance, experienced a significant stock drop after cutting its growth guidance, reflecting the broader trend of slowing luxury spirits sales post-pandemic peak.

However, the industry found a silver lining in the rapid rise of ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails. This category, which includes spirits-based products like vodka and tequila-based hard seltzers, was the fastest-growing in 2023, with a 26.7% increase in revenue to $2.8 billion. The success of RTD cocktails can be attributed to their premium positioning and the consumer’s desire for convenience without compromising on quality. Companies like Coca-Cola have entered the RTD market, launching cocktails in collaboration with Brown-Forman’s Jack Daniel’s, further validating the category’s growth potential.

The American whiskey segment, in particular, received a boost with the extension of the suspension of EU tariffs on the liquor until March 31, 2025. This agreement between the U.S. and European Union is a positive development for the industry, potentially opening up European markets for American whiskey producers and contributing to the category’s growth.

In conclusion, the spirits industry’s performance in 2023 reflects its adaptability and resilience in the face of economic pressures and changing consumer preferences. While the luxury segment may have experienced a slowdown, the rise of RTD cocktails and the strategic focus on diversifying spirit offerings have kept the industry in a strong position. As we move forward, it will be interesting to see how the spirits sector continues to innovate and respond to the evolving landscape of consumer tastes and economic conditions.

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