Opportunity knocks as Christmas nears

The busiest time of the year brings good cheer across different drinks categories

PUBS and bars could grow sales across a range of drinks categories this Christmas, provided their product range is right.

• Expect mulled cider to make an appearance on customers’ Christmas wish list, say drinks firms.
• Expect mulled cider to make an appearance on customers’ Christmas wish list, say drinks firms.
Drinks firms claim premium brands, cocktails and ciders could all be big sellers next month.
Neil Boyd of Ian Macleod Distillers, the firm behind Isle of Skye, Tamdhu and Glengoyne, said the festive period is a “critically important time of year for both licensees and brand owners” looking to boost sales.
“There is great activity over the Christmas period with regular and new consumers venturing into the on-trade,” said Boyd.
And with Christmas on the horizon, Simon Green of Global Brands, the firm behind liqueur brnds Jungfrau and Goldschlager, said there’s still time to review drinks ranges.
“It’s incredibly important that operators review their drinks ranges ahead of Christmas if they want to maximise revenue during the biggest trading season of the year,” said Green.
Serving “luxury, visually appealing cocktails” will “reflect the glamour of the festive season,” according to Green, who said customers are more likely to “trade up” at this time of year.
Phil Keene, UK on-trade sales director at Whyte & Mackay, agreed that consumers “tend to trade up” at Christmas “particularly as there are many causes for celebration with people making that extra effort to catch up with friends or attending Christmas nights out”.
Keene said operators shouldn’t go it alone in trying to make the most of the festive season and instead suggested seeking support from drinks firms.
“Publicans should ensure that they maximise on support from drinks firms and should look to have branded glassware, point of sale materials, consumer tent cards, seasonal or perfect serves and promotions in order to help bar staff promote drinks ranges,” he said.
The importance of promoting an outlet’s drinks range was also stressed by Jim Grierson, on-trade sales director at Maxxium UK, the firm behind The Famous Grouse, Jim Beam and Brugal in the UK.
“Visibility on back-bar is also very important at this time of year,” he said.
“Consumers want to try different drinks and often in a different way.
“Being able to clearly see the premium brands that are stocked aids customers in their choice at the bar.”
Cocktails, in particular, are expected to perform well in the on-trade this Christmas, according to Grierson.
“The cocktail consumption trend continues to grow at pace and clearly represents a big opportunity this Christmas. Cocktails can be as complicated or simple as you care to make them,” he said.
“If it’s an area you have never dabbled in before, then creating a simple menu with easily made contemporary cocktails is an easier thing to do than you might imagine.”
Cocktail serves could also be well placed to attract new drinkers into the whisky category this Christmas, according to Nick Barker, brand manager for single malt Auchentoshan at Cellar Trends.
“Whisky, a traditional winter warmer, always proves popular [at Christmas] and it’s important to offer a decent dram as well as inspiring with whisky cocktails too that are easy to enjoy, even for the untrained palate,” he said.
Spirit serves aren’t the only ones with a festive association; opportunities also abound in the cider category this Christmas, according to cider firms.
Ben Turner of Kopparberg highlighted the emergence of mulled cider as a Christmas hit that looks set to continue this season.
“Mulled cider offers operators the opportunity to boost their winter offering,” said Turner.
“According to Mintel, mulled cider is now drunk by 17% of consumers and this is expected to increase in 2014.”
Mandy Lee of Scottish cider brand Thistly Cross agreed that mulled cider could be a big hit this winter.
“Mulled cider is still a big trend for this festive period,” said Lee.
“It’s popular for a reason – it’s Christmassy, and physically warming after a cold day out on a Scottish high street.”
When it comes to ranging cider for Christmas, Lee suggested striking a balance between festive favourites and year-round sellers to keep customers happy.
“Let your customers know you’re recognising the change in seasons by promoting suitable winter/Christmas specials and options – people love to know that whilst they have the security of their regular drink, they can experiment with something new, particularly around celebratory times like Christmas and New Year,” she said.
Linsey Adams of Chilli Marketing, the firm behind Rekorderlig in the UK, highlighted the importance of getting the cider range right in time for Christmas.
“There should be careful thought behind what publicans stock over the festive season as it’s the busiest trading period of the year,” said Adams.
“Some drinks are synonymous with this time of year – these will sell well and must be stocked.”
For publicans who want to go the extra mile with their cider range this Christmas, it may be wise to introduce food matching, according to Ed Shoebridge of C&C Group, the firm behind Magners.
“To make the most of the festive offering, licensees may consider a festive food matching evening,” he said.
“This is a great way to provide an evening of entertainment for large parties of consumers and can be kept simple; for example, a hog-roast dinner paired with Magners Golden Draught.”