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Imbibe Live – back and better than ever? I’d say so…

by Lucy Richardson, Associate Director

From my experience over the last 10 years in London, the only two days that seem to be guaranteed to be sunny are when Imbibe Live rolls into town. And sure enough, as the warm weather returned this week, Olympia opened its doors once again to bartenders and bar owners from across the country for Imbibe Live on Monday.

The Imbibe Live crowd is renowned for being somewhat – how do I put this – ‘thirsty’ but this year, there seemed to be a marked difference. Don’t get me wrong, tasters of tequila (and any other spirit you can possibly imagine) were clearly being enjoyed in vast quantities but two things struck me as I strolled the aisles. On stands throughout the room, bartenders were listening intently to those serving drinks, eager to learn more about the production process, the heritage, the taste profile and mixability of the drinks on offer. Many of the brands had excelled themselves in providing much more immersive experiences on stand (and outside – told you it’s always sunny), enabling them to engage much more with the visiting bartenders. I’d imagine they’ll have created some new fans as a result – or at least got on their radar more, which is ultimately the aim of any brand exhibiting at the show after all.

The other thing that struck me was the vast number of soft drinks brands at this year’s show. From newer emerging brands such as Dalston Cola (who it seems need a name change given their expansion into lemonade and orange carbonates) to the category’s biggest names – including our very own client, Britvic, of course – the presence of soft drinks was evident on every aisle. What’s more, their stands were busy too with bartenders keen to see the latest developments in the adult socialising space (if you’ll excuse the marketing speak). These bartenders are the frontline to the millennial socialisers who we’re hearing are increasingly image-focused and are subsequently drinking less, so there’s huge opportunity there for soft drinks that can appeal to them.

The spirits guys and girls are still leagues ahead in terms of winning over bartenders from what I saw at the show but at least ‘the softs’ are now showing up to the game; if they up the ante next year, who knows, maybe spirits will find they have some competition…