Spirit sales stay sweet

Buoyed by its use in cocktails, rum is giving licensees plenty to ponder

Rum’s adaptability across a string of well-known cocktail serves has helped the spirit shine

IT could be argued that, given the impressive performance of rum in recent years, that for one reason or another, the category has not always received the attention it deserves.

Whether it’s served across a range of cocktails, such as a Mojito, Mai Tai or Zombie, or in a more straightforward manner, mixed with ginger ale or cola, rum has been an important performer for venues up and down the country.

Faith Holland, head of category and insights at Diageo, whose portfolio contains the Captain Morgan rum brand, said she felt the spirit had benefited from being accessible and versatile in an on-trade increasingly looking for products with such qualities.

She said: “Rum is Europe’s second fastest-growing spirits category. The fun and vibrancy of rum appeals to a wide range of consumers and rum-based cocktails are the most popular across Europe.”

And the sweet distillate has also been able to take advantage of the trend toward more premium spirits in the on-trade, according to Holland.

“Premiumisation has driven growth in the rum category and is a trend here to stay in the on-trade,” she said. “Consumers are spending more on premium spirits and this provides a great way for licensees to deliver incremental profits.”

Paul Stanley, director of Cloven Hoof Rum, a dark spiced rum, agreed with that sentiment, saying the spirit’s versatility has been crucial to its recent success.

Rum is the most versatile liquid for bartenders to go and create with and be as innovative as they want to.

He said: “Rum is the most versatile spirit out there, and I believe there is a style of rum for all drinkers, be that golden, white, dark or spiced. There is something for all palates.

“Rum is [also] the most versatile liquid for bartenders to go create with and be as innovative as they want to.”

As such an in-demand spirit, Stanley said bartenders should be educated on key brand facts about their bar’s range to enable them to engage customers confidently.

He said: “Educate bar staff on the different style of rums and stock a wider range of the spirit.

“Train staff on their knowledge of rum and encourage them to engage with customers more, rather than just reaching for the house rum and mixing it with cola.”

In order to fully exploit the revitalised market for rum, James Stocker, marketing director at Halewood Wines & Spirits, distributor of the Rum Sixty Six brand, reckons the appearance of the bar can be used to surreptitiously elicit more sales from the category.

He said: “Operators should get their visual merchandising right and ensure their offering is highlighted to customers through the right shelf presentation and lighting that is going to create intrigue immediately.”

When it comes to how to serve rum, Stocker believes that real variety is required to cater for the uber-modifiable spirit.

“Think about creating a new menu specifically for rums, from classic cocktails, to classic serves, and even ones perfect for sipping,” said Stocker.

“Ensure the menu sits prominently on the walls for quick engagement.”

In particular, Stocker was keen to point out he believes there is an increased opportunity to sell straight rum serves in the on-trade through hosting tasting events.

He said: “As the category is beginning to develop like other dark spirit categories, and sipping rums are actively being sought out and marketed, think about hosting a tasting night at your venue.

“Invite an expert in to be your ambassador and let them guide your customers through their journey of experimentation – it will be an experience that will remain with them and keep them coming back for more.”

Collin van Schayk, director of Orkney-based VS Distillers, producer of J. Gow Rum, echoed that view.

“I believe there certainly is a market for straight rum serves,” he said. “As consumers are more focused on quality and provenance, which go hand in hand with some of the premium and older aged rums.”