Aperol has sent the Campari Group’s stock price soaring more than 360% over the past few years, so it’s hardly surprising that drinks companies are fervently seeking the next Aperol spritz-style sensation.
While sales of the orange wonder are still booming, they slowed a little over summer in the US, leading experts to wonder if Millennials are already looking for their next Insta-worthy fizzy fix.
And it’s still the “apertivo moment” that’s driving sales according to Diageo’s Chief Marketing Officer Ed Pilkington.
He recently told Quartz that the drinks working best are “lightly effervescent” and refreshing. Many also have a lower alcohol content, which dovetails with the current “mindful drinking” trend.
Diageo’s tilt at the market is Ketel One Botanical, a vodka distilled with real botanicals and infused with natural fruit and botanical essences. Made with 100% non-GMO grain, this first-of-its-kind 30% ABV spirit has no carbs, no artificial flavours, no added sugars, no artificial sweeteners and only 73 calories (40% fewer calories than a glass of white wine).
Campari Chief Executive Bob Kunze-Concewitz recently spoke with The Wall Street Journal about trends in the spirits industry, where he noted younger consumers were more open to the more bitter flavours of many of the apertivo drinks.
“Millennials are curious, and their taste buds are more used to bitterness—espresso, coffee, kale, all of these things,” he said.
“With that in mind, we have been promoting bitters like Braulio, Cynar and Averna, which are all doing extremely well in the US. We’ve seen that they are used mostly in bars in mixed drinks.”
Campari Group is also celebrating surging sales for its eponymous Campari spirit, which has the same citrus notes, photogenic hue and the slight bitterness as Aperol.
The popularity of the Negroni in bars is also giving Campari a huge kick along.
“Speaking with bartenders, we realised the Negroni had such strong potential,” Kunze-Concewitz said. “We were pushing Campari Soda [a single-serve aperitif that is 10% alcohol] in the US, but for Americans it was too bitter and didn’t have enough alcohol. In about 2008-09 we realized that the Negroni had two benefits. One was that the addition of vermouth took the bitterness away, so it made it easier for the American palate, and at the same time the addition of gin made it a more powerful cocktail. After gaining that insight, we said why don’t we start pushing the Negroni?”
Alcoholic seltzers are another category stealing a share of the mindful market and angling to be the next Aperol.
While alcoholic seltzer might be new in Australia, data from Nielsen shows sales in the United States have skyrocketed 193% since last year. In the first six months of 2019, Americans spent $389 million on hard seltzer, according to a Nielsen survey of supermarkets and other beverage retailers, an increase of 210% from 2018.
Alcoholic seltzers are primarily sold and consumed in cans in the US, but Lion launched the first Aussie entry to the market – Quincy – earlier this month in bottles.
With just a hint of either natural lime or passionfruit flavour, the brewer has promoted the drink both served simply with a straw, but also poured prettily in a glass with a slice of lime.
But do they have what it takes to be the next Aperol?
Talia Baiocchi, the editor of the digital drinks magazine Punch and author of Spritz, a history of the drink, says its not going to be easy to be the next Aperol.
“Everybody is trying to get a piece of the pie,” she told Quartz. “Aperol is the owner of that pie.”
Baiocchi explained that it’s very unusual for any mixed drink to be a viral sensation on this level.
“Everyone’s probably wondering what [modern cocktail] could potentially be the next Aperol spritz. But I feel like it comes around once every 30 to 40 years,” she noted.
She added that Aperol’s vibrant colour is key to its appeal as it’s so photogenic.
As Vox notes: “Unlike books or people, it’s perfectly okay to judge a drink, especially ones you drink in summer, solely by its appearance. How a drink looks has a direct effect on whether people want to put it in their mouths. Rosé’s chilly blush and the Aperol spritz’s shy orange tint make you want a sip. They wouldn’t be as popular if they didn’t have their signature colours.
The #AperolSpritz Instagram hashtag is more than 1.1 million posts strong.
“Seeing people post snapshots of their summer drinks adds to the fantasy and appeal,” Vox added. “They vouch for the locale and for the drink. It’s a private fantasy that if you sip an Aperol spritz or a glass of rosé, you might feel as if you’re on the French Riviera, even if it’s fleeting —even if, deep down, we know that the idealized versions of these glamorous places don’t truly exist.
“Therein lies the biggest indicator for the next drink of summer — a hard seltzer, a vermouth spritz, a canned wine, whatever it is. It needs to capture the fantasy, and the innate desire we have to share it with the world.”