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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.

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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Wine, Beer, Spirits

The Art and Science of Crafting Alcohol-Free Beer and Wine: A Deep Dive into the Brewing Revolution

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In a culture where alcohol has been a staple for centuries, the rise of non-alcoholic beer and wine marks a significant shift in consumer preferences and technological advancements. This trend is not just a fleeting fad but a reflection of a deeper change in societal attitudes towards alcohol consumption.

The Growing Trend of Mindful Drinking

The concept of “mindful drinking” is gaining traction worldwide, particularly in Australia, where alcohol has been a part of the social fabric for over 240 years. This shift is evident in the expanding range of non-alcoholic beverages available in supermarkets and online retailers. Unlike their earlier counterparts, these new-age drinks are not limited in variety and boast flavors that closely mimic their alcoholic versions.

The Science Behind Non-Alcoholic Brews

The journey of creating non-alcoholic beer and wine begins with traditional fermentation, where yeasts convert sugars into ethanol. This process is crucial as it contributes to the beverage’s flavor profile. The challenge, however, lies in removing the alcohol while retaining the taste.

High-Tech Methods: Filtration and Distillation

Advanced techniques like membrane filtration and distillation are at the forefront of this brewing revolution. Membrane filtration, particularly reverse osmosis, involves passing the beverage under pressure through filters to separate ethanol from other compounds. This method is favored for its ability to maintain the integrity of the drink’s flavor.

Distillation, on the other hand, separates compounds based on their boiling points. To prevent flavor alteration due to heat, this process is conducted under low pressures and in a vacuum, allowing ethanol removal at lower temperatures, as explained in a study published in the Journal of the Institute of Brewing.

The Craft Brewer’s Approach

Craft breweries, especially in Australia, are adopting innovative methods to produce low-alcohol beers without the need for expensive equipment. These methods include manipulating fermentation conditions and using unique yeast strains. Some breweries use yeasts that are less efficient in producing ethanol, resulting in beers with very low alcohol content, sometimes even below 0.5%. This approach not only offers a low-alcohol alternative but also introduces a variety of new flavors to the beer market.

The Future of Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Creating non-alcoholic versions that taste exactly like their alcoholic counterparts remains a challenge. Ethanol contributes significantly to the flavor, especially in wine. However, producers are continually refining their techniques. Preliminary investigations have shown that even experienced beer drinkers often cannot distinguish between non-alcoholic and alcoholic beers.

Embracing the Non-Alcoholic Wave

The non-alcoholic beverage market is not just a response to consumer demand for healthier options; it’s also a testament to the ingenuity and adaptability of the brewing industry. As technology and brewing techniques evolve, the gap between non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages in terms of taste and variety continues to narrow.

The rise of non-alcoholic beer and wine is a clear indicator of a broader societal shift towards mindful consumption. It reflects a growing awareness of the health implications of alcohol and a desire for inclusive social experiences where everyone, regardless of their drinking preferences, can enjoy a flavorful beverage.

As we move forward, the non-alcoholic beverage industry is poised to play a significant role in shaping drinking cultures around the world. It’s not just about removing alcohol; it’s about adding choice, inclusivity, and innovation to our social fabric. The future of drinking is here, and it’s surprisingly sober.

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Wine, Beer, Spirits

The Great Australian Booze Shift: Beer Takes a Backseat as Spirits Soar

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In a nation where the beer has long been a cultural staple, a seismic shift is occurring. According to new data from the Australian government, beer consumption in Australia has plummeted to its lowest point in nearly 80 years. The figures are staggering: Australians consumed just 82 liters of beer per capita in 2019-20, a sharp decline from the 190 liters per capita recorded between 1974-75. So, what’s filling the void? Spirits, and not just any spirits—high-alcohol spirits like vodka, gin, and tequila are seeing a significant uptick.

The Rise of Spirits

The data reveals that spirits recorded a 10% increase between 2019-20, with Australians consuming 19% more high-alcohol spirits per capita over the year than in 2016-17. According to the government report, “This is the highest level seen since the peak of spirits consumption in 2007–08 of 2.3 liters per capita.”

But it’s not just the quantity; it’s also the quality and type of spirits that are changing. In 2007-08, spirits mixed with soft drinks made up 48% of spirits consumption. Fast forward to 2019-20, and that number has dropped to 28%. This suggests that Australians are becoming more discerning drinkers, opting for purer forms of spirits over pre-mixed beverages.

The Tax Factor

Researchers attribute this shift, in part, to changes in tax on ready-to-drink beverages implemented in 2008. This tax change led to a spike in the consumption of certain spirits. Unmixed spirits like vodka, whiskey, and liqueurs are now at their highest level, with people drinking an average of 1.5 liters of alcohol from these drinks in 2019-20.

This aligns with global trends where premiumization in the spirits sector is evident. According to a report by Grand View Research, the global spirits market size was valued at USD 378.0 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.5% from 2021 to 2028.

Wine Still Reigns, But Not By Much

Despite the decline in beer and the rise in spirits, wine remains the most popular alcoholic beverage in Australia, accounting for 42% of all apparent alcohol consumption. While wine recorded its lowest rate of consumption since 2015-16, it remains at one of its highest levels over the past 60 years.

The Bigger Picture

Interestingly, the report found that the total amount of “pure alcohol” available in Australia fell by less than 1% in 2019-20 but was still significantly higher than five years earlier. This change did not reflect “per capita consumption” and instead came about as Australia’s population continues to grow.

What Does This Mean for the Beverage Industry?

For the beverage industry, these trends signal a need for adaptation. Brands that have traditionally focused on beer might need to diversify their portfolios. The craft spirits movement, already a significant trend in countries like the United States as reported by Forbes, could find fertile ground in Australia.

Conclusion

The Australian drinking landscape is undergoing a transformation. While beer has been dethroned from its longstanding reign, spirits, particularly high-alcohol ones, are ascending the throne. Factors like tax changes and a more discerning consumer base are contributing to this shift. As Australia’s population continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how these trends evolve and what new preferences emerge. One thing is for sure: the Australian liquor cabinet is getting a makeover, and it’s looking more sophisticated than ever.

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