IT’S a question that demands attention in bars up and down the country: as gin continues to grow in popularity, what are the best ways for operators to translate this snowballing spirits category into sales in their outlets?
Experts in the gin sector told SLTN they expect the 21st century gin craze to continue for a while longer, and pointed to a number of common themes within any quality gin range.
The category will “continue to grow” for some time yet before demand starts to level off, asserted Jonny McMillan, business development manager for Fields, Morris & Verdin, the agency and wholesale division of Berry Bros & Rudd.
“I believe the market will consolidate around brands with a genuinely high quality distillate that focuses on balance and complexity,” he said.
Firms identified the ongoing trend towards premium and craft gins in the on-trade, with many drinkers said to be trading up on their gin du jour.
Diageo’s head of on-trade category development, Faith Holland, reported that premium gin is growing around ten times the rate of non-premium gin and encouraged operators to stock up on premium products.
She said: “We suggest stocking three gins at least: one for pouring, one for an up-sell and one for a different choice.”
The need for a broad range of gin was raised amongst those in the know as consumers become more confident about the category.
“Operators need to improve both the range of gin stocked and the variety of serves on offer,” said Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, whose gin brands include Scapegrace and Brooklyn Gin.
“Stocking a range of brands covering mainstream, premium, local and craft gins will interest and engage customers.”
“With each gin having its own flavour profile, a suggested cocktail serve for each brand will drive sales.”
And in the battle to deliver improved sales, skilled and knowledgeable bartenders were said to be essential.
Jill Brown, director of small-batch gin producer Moray Distillery, said whether it’s pouring a cocktail or a more straightforward ‘perfect serve’, staff must have an understanding of the brand and its story so they “can engage confidently with their customer”.
And this is doubly important when so many outlets are focusing on improving their gin offer.
It is likely we will continue to see new exciting flavour combinations.
Leanne Ware, senior marketing manager at Halewood Wines & Spirits, which counts Whitley Neill and Liverpool Gin among its brands, said: “When a large number of outlets stock the same gins, those on the front line – the bartenders – are the biggest opportunity to maximise sales opportunities and encourage repeat visitation.
“Having knowledgeable staff who can communicate each brand’s story in a compelling and enthralling way, helps captivate customers and heightens the experience they are looking for.
“Bartenders should be passionate about their craft, know the products at their disposal inside out and pass this on to their customers who are looking to be guided and excited.”
The fundamental importance of bar staff in driving repeat sales was reiterated by Caorunn’s area sales director, Peter Powell.
He said: “Creating theatre within the bar is crucial.”
Powell stated it was the bartender’s responsibility to educate consumers beyond a G&T and to the array of other mixers on offer for gin, creating the type of interaction and experience that can make a lasting impression with customers.
The gin category certainly has its fair share of pioneers creating new and different versions of the spirit. And this innovation is being echoed in the serves bars are offering.
“Flavoured gins continue to be a huge hit among consumers so it is likely we will continue to see new exciting flavour combinations come onto the market,” said managing director of Daffy’s Gin, Chris Molyneaux.
“Tonic and other mixers have experienced a great revival as well so evidently there will be a rise in the offering of mixers which will in turn allow gin to reach a wider demographic.”
Meanwhile, Bob Fowkes, co-founder and marketing director of Brockmans Gin, said the number of bars making gin a cornerstone of their offer will continue to grow in the on-trade, meaning operators need to keep their offer fresh.
He said: “The biggest change has been more bars specialising in gin or bars offering specialist gin menus.
“We expect to see this trend increasing. At home, consumers are using better glassware, tonics and garnishes. They expect the licensed trade to follow suit.”