Keeping up with the drinks trends

Drinks buyer, Moira Swan, shares her thoughts on what’s hot in the Scottish market

Moira Swan

How long have you worked at Inverarity Morton and what is your role there?

I have been with Inverarity Morton for 26 years – thinking about it it’s actually quite scary to realise that I have been in this trade for more than 30 years! I started my drinks career with John Dewar & Sons in Perth where the bosses still had buzzers in the secretaries’ office!

I joined the then Forth Wines as secretary to sales director Donald Campbell and spent 20 years in various customer service roles, before moving in to the commercial side of the business in 2008 and finally taking on the full responsibility for buying for all non-wine categories (beer, soft and spirits) for Inverarity Morton on Valentine’s Day 2014 (not the most romantic gift I have ever had!).

What’s a typical working day like?

There is no such thing as a typical working day! As is true for many people in this trade you have a plan of action for the day, however you regularly can get to 4.30pm and still have the to-do list in front of you with nothing scored out! My time is taken up by having reviews with our long-standing supplier partners to ensure we have our volume forecasts in place and to evaluate how we are tracking against those forecasts, along with agreeing promotional strategies and plans for the months ahead. I also meet in person or via email/phone with new suppliers to discuss their product proposals.

It seems like there are new drinks products emerging every day. How do you stay up to date on what’s out there?

I probably get approached on a daily basis by existing suppliers regarding a new product from or by a potential supplier looking for a route to market.

There are several criteria that we would discuss before committing to list a product, the most important of which is how the supplier is going to activate and drive rate of sale – wholesale is all about providing a “route to market”, not brand building.

What qualities do you look for in a product when choosing to list it?

Quality, provenance and commerciality. A period of exclusivity if possible, and a realistic plan as to how the supplier will generate demand for the product. It is helpful if the supplier has their own resource calling on customers to create pull-through, however we also require a promotional plan for inclusion in our bi-monthly promotion brochures, potential sales team/telesales incentives, social media interaction and product information sheets that we can circulate to our team and add to our website and category brochures which are currently being created for our website.

Which products do you expect to prove most popular in pubs and bars this summer and why?

Consumers are still going out less but spending more when they do go out, therefore the premium range and serve are important.

Cocktails are still in demand and, as we move through the summer in to autumn, the resurgence of rums and bourbons will play an important part in the development of new innovative dark spirit drinks.

The trends of the past few years have indicated that following on from the gin resurgence, these two categories would be next.

You can begin to see new distillers/brands coming in to the market and doing well, especially with the Scottish provenance of Dark Matter and Wester Rum, for example.

From a US perspective there is increased interest in the extended range from Jack Daniel’s, as well as from bourbon houses such as Heaven Hill, both of which have been doing work with bartender competitions to raise the profile of the category.

How important is it for pubs and bars to be able to provide a point of difference in their drinks ranges, and how can they achieve that this summer?

It is important for bars to offer a varied range – it isn’t necessary to list 200 gins but the consumer wants to have more choice than one gin with a dash of tonic and a slice of lemon.

Premiumisation not only provides what the consumer is looking for but also enables the operator to increase profitability by serving a premium alternative at a higher price point.

Cocktails can also provide that profit opportunity. There are now ready to serve cocktails available in keg – who would have thought that would happen!

From a beer perspective there is growing demand for craft beers in can format and also a trend towards lower ABVs. West Brewery has just released its core brands in can format, and the cans from Stewart Brewing in Edinburgh are really impactful and stand out in the fridge.

Operators also need to cater for the growing number of consumers who choose to not drink alcohol at all, and there is an opportunity to introduce some more adult soft drinks from premium brands such as Fentimans and Franklin & Sons, as well as adding mocktails to cocktail menus.

What is your personal favourite summer drink and how do you like to drink it?

For me, there is nothing nicer than a perfectly made Mojito sitting in the sunshine. The best Mojito is fresh lime, mint, sugar, Bacardi Carta Blanca and soda served in a tall glass with lots of crushed ice, and if it can be served in Barcelona then all the better!

• Moira Swan is drinks buyer at Inverarity Morton.