Distillers suggest operators mix it up to ensure customers stay engaged
GIN sales have been expanding at a rate that would make a mortgage broker blush, but unlike the housing market there seems to be no sign that the bubble will burst anytime soon.
The distillers behind a number of gin brands making their mark on the Scottish on-trade certainly believe there’s more growth to come.
Paul Miller, owner and founder of Eden Mill, reckons there is “still room for significant growth” in the gin category as more drinkers start to “appreciate distinct and unique gins and their provenance”.
Miller said that as a spirit, gin has a “relatively easy apprenticeship for drinkers”.
“The new gin consumers are attracted by choice and are often experimental,” said Miller.
“They are also often promiscuous and keen to try genuinely different offerings.”
Dan Bolton, MD at Hi-Spirits, the firm behind a range of gin brands including Sloane’s, Brookyln and Langley’s No.8, agreed that the gin boom is “clearly set to continue”, with gin being sold “by a broader range of on-trade outlets than ever”.
However, Bolton warned that the popularity of gin could be a “double-edged sword to an extent” – with customers now expecting to see a broader choice of gins on the back-bar than ever before.
“There’s a challenge for operators in differentiating their gins in terms of style, serve and price point,” said Bolton.
“We’ve put considerable work into understanding our range, the different flavour profiles and the type of consumer each brand appeals to in order to support our on-trade customers.”
To meet demand, Bolton suggested licensees take care to tailor their range to the style of outlet they operate, both in terms of brands stocked and serves on offer. “Mainstream pubs that might traditionally have stocked just one brand now offer a choice at different price points, while casual dining outlets routinely offer gin in simple serves and, increasingly, in cocktails,” he said.
Gin is a great spirit for a bartender to play with.
The size of the range should match the customer occasions.”
Miller, at Eden Mill, agreed that a gin range should be specific to the individual outlet.
“The number of gins an outlet should stock will be dependent on the type of outlet and its customer base,” he said.
“A good mix of big brands, local and iconic and distinctive styles is ideal.”
Neil Boyd, commercial director at Ian Macleod Distillers, the firm behind Edinburgh Gin, agreed there’s plenty of growth potential left in gin – particularly for the local stuff.
“There is a real thirst for Scottish gin and if that demand continues, there will be room for further growth in the market,” said Boyd, who reckons the key to keeping gin-lovers engaged is “through innovation and the creation of new recipes”.
And a spokeswoman for Halewood, the firm behind gin brands Liverpool and Whitley Neill, said bars should now offer “a wider selection (of gin) that appeals to all palates, styles and price points”. “Operators should showcase a quality range from accessible to exceptional,” she added.
Operators looking for an area in which to experiment may do well to consider seasonal serves.
Faith Holland, head of on-trade category development at Diageo GB, the firm behind Gordon’s and Tanqueray, reckons “unique and on-trend” flavours such as elderflower “are becoming hugely popular with consumers, especially as we come into the warmer months”.
Gin top tips
• Educate: there will be customers new to gin and learning more about the spirit; how it is made and what botanicals it is made with are hugely important to understanding the flavour.
• Taste: let customers taste gin without the tonic. This way it is easy to understand the difference in taste between gins on the market.
• Cocktails: gin cocktails are a great way for customers to try gin and learn how versatile this spirit is.
– Neil Boyd, Ian Macleod Distillers
It’s not just seasonal flavours that can grab customers’ attention.
Holland also suggested operators spend time experimenting with the right finishing touches.
“Go the extra mile with eye-catching garnishes,” she said.
Ibolya Bakos-Tonner, global brand manager for Caorunn gin, agreed that operators can benefit from upping their garnish game.
“The right garnish is key in adding the perfect finishing touch to any gin serve,” said Bakos-Tonner.
She said a strong understanding of both serves and the garnishes that complement each product is important “as this is key when enhancing the gin’s flavour”.
She added that when it comes to gin, it’s important for bartenders to have strong product knowledge to ensure they can make the best recommendation to their customers.
Staff knowledge was also something Cameron McCann of Stirling Gin highlighted as key to driving gin sales in the on-trade.
McCann said bar staff should have knowledge not only of the gin they serve but also where the spirit is distilled.
Brushing up on all things gin isn’t just good for customers, it can also be advantageous for bartenders looking to improve their cocktail game.
Moji Shand, chief executive at Duncan Taylor Scotch Whisky, the firm behind Indian Summer Gin, said it’s bartenders who can bring their “creativity to the table, and make sure [their] customers keep coming back”.
“Gin is a great product for a bartender because it can be a fantastic clear spirit to play with and to make a variety of cocktails with,” said Shand.
“In today’s market, with so many varieties of gins out there, the world can be a bartender’s oyster.”
Gin-themed events are one of the avenues that can open up when bartenders become knowledgeable about the spirit, and Bob Fowkes of Brockmans gin reckons these can be an excellent sales driver.
“We find that helping customers to stage customer events such as masterclasses really helps to drive interest in the category,” said Fowkes.
“We also work with some customers on their food offering, working gin into food recipes and then adopting a suitable cocktail pairing can really work to boost footfall and sales.”