That’s the message from spirits firms, who say licensees who look beyond the ‘with cola’ serve to mixers such as ginger ale or cloudy lemonade stand to benefit.
“Rum is still a hugely popular category in the trade and bartenders and mixologists continue to experiment and create innovative serves, playing on different flavour elements,” said Roy Summers, director for the on-trade at William Grant & Sons UK, the firm behind the Sailor Jerry and OVD rum brands.
“The category has experienced continued growth and this has differentiated rum from other spirits.
“Consumer perceptions of rum are changing and the way it is being consumed is more sophisticated than ever before.
“They are open to trying new variants and mixers and are interested in the premium choices made available to them.”
Lisa Jazwinski, UK and Ireland brand director for Bacardi, agreed that consumer tastes are changing, saying drinkers are demanding “more robust flavours from spirits themselves and not just the mixer which is why we’ve seen growth areas in golden and spiced rums”.
“There is also more interest around premium variants and an overall increase in consumer interest around trying new products within the rum category which is why innovation in the spirits category is important,” said Jazwinski.
This shift in consumer tastes is also reckoned to have benefitted dark rum, according to Darroch Ramsay of Halewood International, the firm behind Lamb’s Navy Rum.
“The perceptions of dark rum are changing and moving from a traditionally older, male dominated demographic towards a unisex and younger audience,” said Ramsay.
They are open to trying new variants and mixers and are interested in premium serves.
“This progression has been advanced by the introduction of cocktails and suggested serves, of which there are many for Lamb’s Navy Rum.”
Nick Gillett, managing director of Mangrove, the firm behind rum brands Blackwell Fine Jamaican Rum, Elements 8 and Santa Teresa, agreed that rum is being consumed in a “variety of ways” in the Scottish trade, including as a spirit and mixer, neat or in complex cocktails.
“It is a spirit produced in many different styles with different characteristics so is incredibly versatile,” said Gillett.
When it comes to premium serves, Gillett highlighted the potential for premium dark rums to gain from the popularity of other brown spirits.
“One of the most interesting trends we’re witnessing is the increasing popularity of premium dark rums,” said Gillett.
“However, it’s not just as a result of consumers trading up from entry level brands, it’s more a case of consumers switching into the category from other dark spirits – and in particular Scotch. These consumers tend to enjoy drinking their rum neat or on the rocks.”
Stocking a range of rums at different price points is key, suggested Gillett, adding that staff should be fully trained on how to serve each brand “to encourage consumers to trade up to more premium styles”.
“The key is investment in education and training for bartenders – helping them to truly understand the differences between different styles of rum – and providing them with a regular drip feed of tools that are relevant to them,” added Gillett.
“This means developing new cocktail recipes on a regular basis and providing engaging POS items.”
As well as stocking a broad range, operators can also boost margins by offering rum-based cocktails, according to Ian Peart, on-trade channel director for spirits at Pernod Ricard UK, whose rum brands include Havana Club.
“With consumers generally going out less, but spending more when they are out, having an upgrade on spirit and mixers and cocktails is an easy way to tap into this consumer desire for premium and quality,” he said.
Describing up-selling as an “integral part of the premium rum opportunity”, Peart agreed that staff should be clued up on the category in order to maximise sales.
“Staff training can make a big difference to profit margins – ensure your staff are familiar with your premium rum offering and are trained in simple up-selling techniques to meaningfully engage consumers in premium alternatives,” said Peart.
Highlighting the versatility of rum, Peart said there is also a chance for publicans to benefit through “less traditional opportunities” for the category, “including focusing on the pre-dinner occasion for rum and shared rum cocktails, such as a Mojito, as an alternative to a traditional aperitif”.
Having an upgrade on spirit and mixers and cocktails is an easy way to tap into consumer desire for quality.
“Focusing on the after-dinner occasion can be an easy way for on-trade retailers to drive incremental value,” added Peart.
Daniel Dove, Diageo Reserve brand ambassador for Ron Zacapa, also highlighted the role rum can play in food-led outlets.
“We work closely with trend-leading bars to create bespoke serves, for example at Chaophraya in Edinburgh, the Zacapa Spiced Daiquiri – made using Zacapa 23, green chartreuse, fresh lime juice and sugar syrup – is an outstanding twist on the classic,” said Dove.
And although summer is more or less behind us, it seems there isn’t necessarily an ‘off season’ for rum.
Scott McKenzie, Scottish sales manager for spiced rum The Kraken, said his team will continue to work on the brand with the trade throughout the winter.
“We’re continually working with key accounts and coming up we have Halloween, as well as the build up to the festive period, so there’s lots of activity coming up,” he said.