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Journal of Marketing Management

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Perspectives on drinking, manufacture and drinking spaces and places

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16 September 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Victoria Wells, University of York, UK
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Nadine Waehning, University of York, UK
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Robert Bowen, Cardiff University, UK
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Perspectives on drinking, manufacture and drinking spaces and places

Globally, approximately one in three people (32.5%) drink alcohol meaning that roughly 2.4 billion people drink alcohol across the world (Griswold et al., 2018). Rates of drinking differ country by country with higher drinking levels in countries like Denmark and Romania and lower levels in Pakistan and Iran (Griswold et al., 2018). In England over 50% of adult men and over 40% of adult women drink alcohol at least once a week (NHS, 2022) with over 60% of adults describing themselves as moderate drinkers in Wales (Welsh Government, 2019).

Much research on drinking focuses on alcohol harms. Predominantly health issues from alcohol consumption such as liver cirrhosis, breast cancer and tuberculosis are highlighted (Bryazka et al., 2022). Other impacts of alcohol such as drink driving (Loewen Friesen et al., 2022), violence (Khajji et al., 2022), including domestic violence (Mayshak et al., 2020) and impacts on and interactions with mental health have also been noted (Schäfer et al., 2022). This has led to many discussions, historical and contemporary, about the role of policy and government interventions in alcohol access and use (Babor et al., 2022) as well as a particular focus on the risk of youth drinking (Demant & Landolt, 2014). Additionally this has led to discussions regarding alcohol labelling and promotion, and the effects of these on choice and behaviour as well as the role of social marketing in reducing alcohol harm (Diouf et al., 2023). While problematic drinking is often a focus and has gained much research attention, the vast majority of drinkers in the UK are modest drinkers who drink at or below the recommended level with approximately 70% of adults categorised as low risk drinkers (Drinkaware, 2022). These more modest, everyday drinkers have often been ignored in extant research.

When people do drink there are various places they can purchase and consume alcohol. In the UK off-licence purchases can be made in small shops, specialist retailers and supermarkets both off and online. These purchases may then be drunk, in the home or others homes, with or without company or potentially in some public spaces. Home drinking has become more popular, as supermarkets have offered cheaper alcohol and home entertainment options have been wider (Sandiford & Divers, 2011). In the UK in 2021 80% of adults reported having drunk in the home in the last week and 19% at a friends or families homes (Drinkaware, 2022) Alternatively on-licence purchases happen within bars, pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes with consumers buying and consuming in situ either alone or with other people. Proximity has shown to be a key part of the pub visiting decision with a consumer preference for pubs close to their home or other significant locations e.g. work (Wells et al., 2023). In the UK in 2021, 36% of adults reported having drunk in a pub, restaurant or a bar. These multifaceted spaces offer context in which to drink and can provide opportunities for marketers to promote different drinks. Pubs, a key part of drinking culture in the UK bring immeasurable public value, both socially, culturally and economically as community hubs (Fyans & McLinden, 2023) but are closing at an alarming rate, due to many factors including government interventions, high levels of beer tax/VAT, and Covid with, in the first 6 months of 2023, 750 pubs closed (Weller, 2023). How the disappearance of these spaces will affect drinking and communities has been discussed but is not known. Drinking places and spaces, their relations to drinking, social connections and community have been discussed in many global north cultures such as the UK (e.g. Jennings, 2011), Australia (Callinan et al., 2016), Europe (Hughes et al., 2011) and the USA (Sudinaraset et al., 2016) but little research has taken place within the global south. A study which looked into 97 countries, has found that off-trade beer consumption complements on-trade beer consumption, so called the “Prinks effect” (where alcohol is consumed at home before going out). On the other hand, on-trade beer is a substitute for off-trade beer (O’Connor & Waehning, 2023).

One particular contextual drinking space which has gained research attention is the beer festival especially in terms of who attends beer festivals, why (Hermann et al., 2021) and their economic contribution (Cabras et al., 2020). Taprooms have also become popular due to the rise in local and small scale micro and meso breweries, and the consumer behaviour and marketing related to these has started to be researched (Taylor et al., 2021).

At the beginning of the process, brewers, distillers and winemakers have developed significantly across the UK over the last 10 years allowing more local and UK based options for alcohol consumption (Cabras, 2017). Craft and micro breweries in particular saw significant growth in the last 10-15 years with the Society of Independent Brewers UK Brewery Tracker showing 1826 breweries in the UK at the end of the second quarter in 2023 a significant increase from 200 when there were only 500 breweries (Statista, 2023). However in recent years due to the impact of Covid and rising costs the brewing industry has been particularly badly hit with hundreds of breweries closing and at risk (Watterson, 2023). Breweries responded in multiple ways to the covid pandemic often switching to sell directly to consumers rather than through distributors or pubs/bars (Cabras et al., 2023; Waehning et al., 2023). Post COVID, and with a difficult environment in which to succeed, breweries are continually developing and questioning that strategy to effectively target consumers and manage their costs. Whether to internationalise, or stick to local markets, to sell directly to consumers or not and how to present and market products are just some of the issues faced by breweries. Many breweries have also chosen a route of coopetition (an interorganizational relationship that combines “cooperation” and “competition” (Bouncken et al., 2015), collaborative and cooperative working with other competing brewers (Mathais et al., 2017). British wine production is also seeing a significant growth with high foreign and home investments in UK active and potential vineyards (Stoughton, 2023) and increased land being used for plantings (Green, 2023). Distilling of various spirits has also increased significantly reaching a UK record high in 2020 (Bellwood, 2021). Some research has started to research these trends and their potential effects on drinking have begun (Hall, 2014) but much work is still needed on these growing markets and their consumer base.

An emerging area of research looks at the marketing of beer, particularly that produced by craft breweries. Research on this aligns with broader considerations of food and drink marketing, considering the place-based nature of local breweries, discussing elements of authenticity (Gatrell et al., 2018; Waehning et al., 2018), a sense of place (Hede & Watne, 2013; Miller & Bowen, 2023), branding (Melewar & Skinner, 2020) and tourism (Cabras et al., 2020). Bowen & Miller (2023) discuss the importance of provenance representations in the labelling of craft beers, pointing to cultural representations of place and associations of identity with craft beers on local, regional, national or international levels. Furthermore, Sjölander-Lindqvist et al. (2020) discuss the ‘social terroir’ of craft beer, that craft beers derive originality and authenticity from social ties to place and community.

As well as all this drinking trends are changing with lower numbers of young people drinking (Willams & Katwala, 2022) and producers, both new and established have launched no and low alcohol products (nolo) into the market with an expected value of £432 million by 2027 (Mintel, 2022). These are often costly for manufacturers to make, meaning significant cost considerations must be taken into account in brewery, winemakers and distillers strategies. How and when pubs, bars and restaurants integrate these products into their offerings is also important and a greater understanding of how consumers consume hybridly and incorporate these products into their drinking behaviours needs further research attention (Nicholls, 2022).

Finally, an area of current interest affecting all elements of drinking from spaces to brewing is diversity and inclusion. Pubs have traditionally positioned themselves as welcoming spaces for all (Sandiford & Divers, 2011; Lane, 2018), including many offering themselves as warm spaces in recent cold winters (Maurice-Jones, 2022) but recent behaviours have led to accusations of sexism at beer festivals (Harrison-West, 2022), chauvinistic marketing of beer has also been highlighted as well as gender inequity in the brewing industry (Land, 2019). For pubs, events and brewing to survive they must be spaces that provide active support for diversity and inclusion.

As the text above shows, the area of drinking and drinking spaces, places and manufacture, is multifaceted and complex and requires further detailed research. Work is continuing in this area, but with the industry being so dynamic and evolving at a significant rate there is much more to understand about consumers, marketing and strategy in this area. An understanding of drinking behaviour of consumers, the retail position of drinking and the manufacture of alcohol leads to a range of important marketing, consumer behaviour and strategy questions which we wish to reflect in this special issue.

For some suggested areas of interest and the full call for papers including references see

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