Choice is king for gin enthusiasts

It could be time to stock an array of gins for the spirit’s swelling number of fans

THE proliferation of gin over recent years has posed a challenge for operators keen to make the most of growing demand for the juniper-led distillate.

What to stock, which styles and variants are among the primary considerations for licensees as gin sales continue to rise.

And no matter what size a pub or bar is, a robust selection of gins served well can help maximise takings over the coming years, figures from the UK’s buoyant gin industry have reported.

Paul Miller, co-founder of St. Andrews-based producer Eden Mill, said stocking an array of craft gins can help give customers the variety they crave.

“Craft spirits, particularly across the gin category, are continuing to grow in popularity in Scotland,” he said.

“The industry hit record-breaking sales last year and we expect this trend to continue as even more distilleries enter the market and consumers seek something new.

“With craft gin there’s a real opportunity to get creative with serves that appeal to consumers’ diverse tastes.

“Due to the nature of the small-batch product they can really stand out among some of the more popular flavours, so there’s an opportunity to create cocktails and perfect serves which really showcase the unique flavour profiles of craft gins.”

With craft gin there’s a real opportunity to get creative with serves that appeal to diverse tastes.

It has been said of craft beer connoisseurs that they do not necessarily wish to find new favourites but instead want to try a different beer every time they visit the bar.

While a similar trend is less discernible amongst gin drinkers – it’s clear from the number of new releases that demand for gins which offer a point of difference is high.

With choice now a “big driver of consumer spending in the on-trade”, Dan Bolton, managing director of drinks distributor Hi-Spirits, believes “whether it is craft beer, cocktails or gin, customers will gravitate to outlets that offer them a range of choice”.

He said: “The key thing for operators to appreciate is that gin is no longer a ‘one-size-fits-all’ category. Stocking a range of brands covering mainstream, premium, local and craft gins will interest and engage customers, and with each gin having its own flavour profile, a suggested serve for each brand will drive sales.”

Conversely, Will Holt, director of Pinkster Gin said that while “there will be an element of exploration” from consumers, he concluded that “ultimately most folk will have a couple of favourites”.

Yet gin drinkers are increasingly thirsty for knowledge when looking for such favourites and are keen to learn as much as they can about the spirit, different brands and the best ways to drink them – whether paired with a mixer or in a cocktail, said Bob Fowkes, co-founder and marketing director at Brockmans, who suggested licensees capitalise on such curiosity.

Gin drinkers will frequent bars that offer them a good selection of the spirit, say firms

“In their searching they are looking for tastings, events such as gin festivals, masterclasses and information about the history of the brands, the botanicals or distillation method,” said Fowkes.

“They are also very keen to learn about recommended serves. Bar and pub operators can help this process by offering a good range of different gins and serves and ensuring that their staff are fully trained up on all the different gin brands on offer in terms of taste, provenance and process.

“Some operators even offer customers a mini gin festival with support from willing brand owners such as ourselves.”

A range of brands will engage customers and a suggested serve for each will drive sales.

With such a vast array of gins on offer to licensees and with shelf space and practicality important considerations, any new additions to a gin offer must make financial sense for licensed businesses.

Miller at Eden Mill reckons that because gin drinkers are looking for “the next best thing, it’s definitely worth licensees taking the time to explore new options to stock”.

Kirstie Nisbet, director at Granite North Spirits agreed, saying consumers are looking to try out new gins when out in the on-trade and said bars should look to make an occasion of the addition of a new variant.

She said: “We would recommend introducing a couple of new gins each month.

“When introducing a new gin to the collection, it should be celebrated with tastings, meet the maker sessions and a strong social media presence.”

We have brand loyal consumers and more ‘promiscuous’ gin consumers.

Ray Clynick, managing director of The Oro Distilling Company in Dumfries, which operates a gin-focused bar on site,  said: “Consumers are certainly looking for new and interesting products to talk about.

“We have noticed two styles of customers, we have brand loyal consumers and more ‘promiscuous’ gin consumers.

“We constantly evaluate our range of over 75 gins; if a gin doesn’t move after a month we start to consider delisting the gin.”

On the other hand, Bolton of Hi-Spirits cautioned licensees against flooding their outlets with new releases, saying there is a need for bars to “rotate rather than proliferate” with regards to the number of gins they stock. He advised operators to change their serves regularly to reflect current trends, “rather than giving customers – and busy bar staff – too much to choose from”.