Gin Spin: December
Gin Foundry takes a keen eyed look at industry news to bring you a snapshot of the best bits the last month has had to offer.
The Stats Are In.
When the numbers came in last year showing Gin sales within the UK exceeding £1bn, we were pretty sure gin was at, or close to reaching its peak. We thought the numbers would hold steady for a while, but we weren’t sure they’d have room to grow much more. Fresh figures form the WSTA, however, show a phenomenal increase, with total bottle sales up to 47m in the 12 month to September 2017 (from 40m in the same period last year, some 17% increase). Lesser spoken about in the clammer for the big headline announcement were that the numbers for the on trade were pretty good too, with some 8.8m bottles of gin sold within pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels – a sign that the Uk’s on-trade is still thriving, despite the Brexit geared politics, duty increases and continued pinch on consumer spending that have provoked much uncertainty within the area.
Gin showed the biggest growth of any spirit in fact, and with sales going abroad reaching £474m, is now the world’s 7th most valuable food and drink export. WSTA Chief Executive Miles Beale said: “The latest WSTA market report is showing yet another sparkling result for gin sales in the UK. The British public show no signs of growing tired of trying new gins.”
This news came in as YouGov released an opinion poll naming Gin as the most popular spirit in Britain, with 29% of the share (compared to 25% for whisk(e)y). It’s a bubble that keeps on growing, and sure, it’ll burst one day, but we’re more confident than ever before that it won’t be anytime soon and that the lofty high it’s reached now means that the plateau it will maintain before the decent will allow a market place to be inclusive of much of the diversity of producers already in operation.
Beefeater Master Distiller Desmond Payne signed off the year with the letters M.B.E. after his name, having been given the nod for services to the British Gin Industry in the New Year’s Honours list. Given our Lizzie’s tendency towards a tipple, we’re surprised it didn’t come sooner, really. It’s a nice nod for Desmond and a great way for him to continue celebrating his 50th year as a distiller. Congratulations!
No Brand, No Sale?
Brand Directory released its study into potential plain packaging directives in December, which looked at the financial implications if the plain packaging regulations of tobacco were to be extended to alcohol, snacks and sugary drinks. The study looked into eight major brand owning companies, including InBev, Heineken and Pernod Ricard.
Brand Directory commenced the study because they believe that “plain packaging would severely limit the effectiveness of these brands as marketing tools, preventing firms from differentiating their products.”
Looking at Pernod Ricard alone, the repercussions are vast. With 218 brands under its portfolio, 100% of which are alcohol (therefore implying full exposure), there could be a loss of around $10bn.
While that study only looked at the big boys, we can only imagine how hard small, craft brands would be hit by this if such a move towards restrictions were to ever be taken seriously. If they’re unable to stand out as different in the most tangible, immediate way, it’s not going to take long before eyes start flickering towards the bottom of the booze shelf… Te numbers make for some stark reading and while plain packaging is not something we could foresee happening to spirits anytime soon, that’s clear – it does once again showcase the paramount importance of packaging and the real, tangible and fiscal value it represents for spirit producers. In doing so, the report provides yet another wake up call for any distiller who’s not taking their label, identity and brand work seriously.
Not So Lone Wolf
Lone Wolf added to its portfolio in December with two limited releases: Gunpowder Gin (the brand’s first foray into Navy Strength Gin) and Single Malt Barrel-Aged Vodka, which was aged in a virgin American oak cask for just shy of a year.
We’re excited about the Gunpowder Gin, of course, but despite our worship of all things juniper, we’re even more excited about the vodka. Grain to glass, though a growing sub-category, is still a relatively limited endeavour (because it’s costly, difficult and full of risk), but it produces the most interesting, characterful base spirits. This strange whisk(e)y hybrid can be a whole new path for spirit fans to explore, and it’s only one we expect to see grow over the coming year.
The Drinks Business reported in early December that work has begun on a £3m biogas project to shrink the carbon footprint at Inver House Distillers in Airdrie, Scotland – home to Caorunn Gin. The new anaerobic digestion system will combine with the distillery’s wood-pellet fuelled biomass boiler to generate enough renewable power to fully meet the distillery’s energy requirements. This is fantastic news for the distillery group and even better news for the earth – we only hope that others follow suit and that greener, more sustainable practices are adopted by the wider gin industry in 2018 (well, at least in part and with increasing prominence, given that not everyone can afford such massive investments).
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