Players within the alcoholic drinks industry will be pleased to consign many pandemic-era adjustments to the past, but the rise of e-commerce is an exception. Brands are exploring the array of emerging opportunities in the digital space now that its importance to the industry is fully apparent. Understandably, online sales growth of alcoholic drinks was more moderate in 2021, but importantly, volumes remained considerably above pre-pandemic levels – up by 61% on 2019. Venturing into the virtual world of the metaverse is the next step along the path of digital transformation.
In 2022, Bacardi’s Angel’s Envy bourbon promoted the opening of its expanded production facility in Kentucky with a pop-up distillery in Decentraland, a 3D virtual world. Jose Cuervo tequila also established a distillery on the platform. Many producers opted to retain aspects of the online engagement strategies that were initially introduced during lockdown alongside the return of in-person interaction. The more immersive approach offered by virtual reality could enhance these initiatives without detracting from the core educational and experiential elements that drive appeal. Sponsorship arrangements can boost the virtual visibility of alcohol brands; high-profile festivals or sports events provide an attractive testing ground. Pernod Ricard’s 2022 Absolut.Land aimed to take elements of the festival experience to the metaverse, linked to Absolut’s long-term sponsorship of Coachella festival. Visitors’ avatars could explore various spaces, interact with others, create virtual drinks, and order physical cocktails for home delivery in the real world.