New brands and serves have energised spirits category
GIN has enjoyed an upturn in fortunes in recent years. A steady stream of small-batch and niche gins have emerged onto the market, giving bartenders the opportunity to showcase the spirit’s versatility through a range of different long drinks and cocktails.
And it seems the heightened activity has captured the imagination of consumers as well as the trade.
Tim Stones, brand ambassador for Pernod Ricard-owned Beefeater, said the combined effect of new products and activity around established brands has generated greater awareness of gin and attracted new consumers to the category, which is ultimately driving growth.
“Gin seemed to fall by the wayside a little while ago as vodka enjoyed a prolonged dominance within the white spirits category, but it is now enjoying a resurgence thanks to changing tastes, exciting new brands and limited edition creations from brands such as Beefeater,” he said.
“The trade is increasingly supporting the gin category, with bartenders and brand ambassadors out there singing the praises and extolling the virtues of gin.
“They are an extremely powerful force to have on side and we believe the growing popularity of gin is due, in no small part, to the passionate support for gin that is out there in the trade.
“Within the gin category, consumers tend to be split between ‘old school’ gin drinkers who prefer the classic flavours, such as Beefeater, and the ‘new school’, that seem to prefer the more modern interpretations with unusual botanicals.
“In both cases, the increased knowledge of the category has meant that people are more willing to trade up and try something different and more premium, in much the same way that vodka drinkers did a few years ago.
“Consumers are also realising that gin is a very versatile spirit that combines well with a variety of mixers, such as cranberry, bitter lemon and grapefruit, not just tonic.”
Karen Stewart, PR and marketing manager for Darnley’s View, the gin from Wemyss Malts, agreed that highlighting the mixability of the spirit can help operators boost sales.
Acknowledging that the traditional gin and tonic serve remains popular, she said a growing number of consumers are choosing to “explore” the category, trying different brands and serves – and experimenting with different tonics.
“Perhaps in future brand owners will actually develop the best tonic to match their gin,” said Stewart.
“More and more bars are using gin as a base for cocktails, which is also encouraging consumer experimentation.”
It’s a view shared by Andrew Leat, senior category development manager for the on-trade at Gordon’s owner Diageo GB, who said spirit and mixers are the most profitable finished drink in the on-trade.
“Long mixed spirit drinks, such as Gordon’s and Schweppes tonic, are perfect for summer celebration occasions as they have a refreshing taste, which is ideal for the summer months,” he said.
Ibolya Bakos, brand manager for Inver House Distillers’ Caorunn gin, said long serves are currently playing a “major role” in gin’s popularity.
“When it comes to cocktails and serves, often less is more – simple, well-made drinks with great ingredients [work well],” said Bakos.
“At times, complexity is a distraction from using great-tasting liquids, although there is always space for genuine innovation, which we see at its very best in Scotland.”
When it comes to choosing which brands to stock, Bakos advised operators to pick brands that can remain on the gantry for years to come “rather than following fads”.
“Some new drinks are really exciting and will stand the test of time because of the integrity of their vision and the quality of the liquid,” Bakos added.
“In this climate there is probably more of a level playing field as a lot of the ‘big’ brands don’t seem to have the money to throw at bars to ensure their dominance, which is exciting.
“As with anything, quality is key and will stand the test of time.”
Quality is top of the agenda at Bruichladdich distillery on Islay, which produces The Botanist gin using 22 native botanicals.
“Among a certain sector of consumers there is a degree of disenchantment, a marketing fatigue with vodka; and a boredom with gin,” boss Mark Reynier said.
“They are thirsty for genuine flavour and authentic distillation. That’s where The Botanist comes in.”