Christmas - it's the time of year where it's out with the old and in with the new. The scruffy old slippers with the hole in the right toe, and stuffing hanging out of the left heel, make way for the snazzy new ones. Whether they're better or not is an entirely different matter, but we're taught to believe that new is good.
So it seems an appropriate time to offer a retrospective on the newcomers to the drinks market this year, and in an Oscar-stylee, say farewell to the brands we've sadly lost.
So is new better? When it comes to ginger, drinkers and drinks companies clearly think so. The proud parent of the alcoholic ginger category, Halewood International's Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer, launched all the way back in February 2009. Other companies took note and in 2010, the category boomed. We welcomed Frank's Alcoholic Ginger Beer from COS Brands (the company behind Kopparberg), St Helier Ginger Beer Shandy and, most recently, Hollows Superior Alcoholic Ginger Beer from premium soft drinks pioneer Fentimans. Fentimans has plans to add the sauce to more of its soft drinks, and lo, a premium nostalgia alcoholic drinks category is born.
Too close to RTDs, you say? In concept, maybe, but very doubtful it will be in execution. The sweet, easy-drinking flavours of some of the fruitier ciders could be seen as being more similar to the alcopops of old. But is that necessarily a bad thing?
Brothers added a Tutti Frutti flavour to its sweet pear cider range and COS Brands added Strawberry & Lime to the Kopparberg family. InterContinental Brands also added two new flavours to its St Helier range. But as Cherry and Blackcurrant made an entrance, Peach flavour made an exit. So, cue the sad music and nostalgic black-and-white pictures, it's time to say goodbye, God rest.
Biting the dust too was the much-hyped, all-natural premium cola spin-off Pepsi Raw. Raw retired this year following poor sales since its 2008 launch. Right idea, wrong execution?
If anything is for sure it's that brand owners have plenty of ideas. But are they the right ones? Let's look at the trends.
Something for the ladies? There's certainly been a flurry of low-ABV products this year. First off, there was Eve from Carlsberg. A sort of beer for girls, but not a beer for girls. The 3.1 per cent fruit spritzer, brewed from malt, sugar and hop extracts, which are fermented, filtered and blended with sugar and fruit juice, answered a need for a female-friendly product.
Next came Carnaby Brown, a 5.5 per cent ABV drink that was launched to straddle the gap between the sessionability of cider and the sophistication of wine. And even some spirits got in on the act with the launch of three new flavours of Sambuxo, a 22 per
cent ABV sambuca equivalent. Will these products work? And does the market really want them? Increasingly health-conscious consumers are no doubt looking to cut back on the booze, and lower-ABV beers such as Beck's Vier have proved that lower-ABV products can work.
But the jury is still out on whether consumers have bought into the girly imagery or taste profiles of these products.
And speaking of lower-ABV beers, Bud 66, a four per cent version of Budweiser, joined the party this year. And also nicely reflecting both the four per cent trend, and a trend for premium craft lagers, is Freedom Brewery's Freedom Four, a helles pale lager.
Indeed, world beers may have been the beer category that was most hyped during 2010, but the smart money is on crafted premium lagers for 2011, especially those with British or even regional provenance. Meantime launched its London Lager and St Austell launched Korev Cornish lager.
So keen on regionality are some that Aspall even went so far as to set up a separate brewing company, hire a Belgian brewer and use American hops and create Suffolk Blonde, brewed in Kent. So expect more 'regional' lagers to follow suit in 2011.
Premium gins have also come to the fore this year. So it seems only fitting that we start our 'ones to watch' with a special mention to Adnams' new gin and vodka ranges, and in three years' time, a whisky range too. A special mention too, goes to the English Whisky Company and London copper-pot gin distillery Sipsmith. Though they opened in 2006 and 2009 respectively, it's over the next few years that their products are going to make their presence felt.
Also ones to watch are Mongoose from Wells & Young's, which seems intent on conquering the curry with food market and tapping into the world beer trend, and on-trade-exclusive Czech beer Kozel from Miller Brands. From Molson Coors, we're to keep an eye out for a new female-friendly beer complete with designer black glass goblets.
We're as yet in the dark about what this product will be, but is the market ready for new 'unisex beers' in girly packaging, or would beer sales just benefit from having a great taste and less masculine advertising? You decide.
Adnams Gin and Vodka
Handcrafted gins and vodkas of great quality have seen Adnams launch into the world of spirits distillation rather seamlessly. There's Distilled Gin, First Rate Gin, Barley Vodka, Longshore Premium Vodka and North Cove oak-aged vodka and all directly from Adnams' new Copper House micro-distillery at its Sole Bay Brewery premises in Southwold. East Anglian malted barley, wheat and rye play a role in creating these artisan spirits.
Blue Moon (draught)
The 5.4 per cent Belgian-style craft American wheat beer is brewed by Molson Coors and now available on draught over here. The beer is orange-amber in colour and spiced with coriander and orange peel as well as having a trademark cloudy appearance due to being unfiltered. Traditionally, it is served with a slice of orange, to accentuate its flavour. With world beers, and American beers in particular, proving popular, now is its time.
Bulmers seasonals - Apple & Pear and Red Apple
Bulmers variants continue to encourage drinkers to try the brand over the different seasonal periods. Its Summer Blend, a mix of apples and pears pushed sales during Easter time, while its Red Apple caters for the festive time of year.
With plans to help licensees capitalise on untapped potential within the cider category, as well as plans to introduce additional blends next year, this is one brand to watch.
Brooklyn Lager (draught)
This 5.2 per cent ABV Vienna-style lager, brewed in New York, became available beyond bottles and launched its draught version in the UK. As one of America's leading craft beers, it's great to now have it this side of the pond and sample its distinctive tangy hoppy taste, not common in a lager, which is brewed to a pre-Prohibition recipe. Plus, the brand's logo was created by Milton Glaser, the man behind the famous 'I
Crabbie's Cloudy Ginger Beer
Another spin-off to Halewood International's Crabbie's range is soft drink John Crabbie's Cloudy Ginger Beer. Taking advantage of the ginger trend, but going for a broader audience, it is available in 330ml bottles and contains ginger and lime to give it the zing people know and love.
Fireball Cinnamon Whisky
This 33 per cent corn whiskey, infused with cinnamon, is brought to us by Hi-Spirits and threatens to become a popular shot, 'bomb' - if mixed with an energy drink - or long drink when served with ginger, Coke or apple juice . Fireball shirks the traditional values of Scotch whiskies and appeals to spirits enthusiasts who choose variety over heritage.
Frank's Alcoholic Root Beer
Barley, malt, hops, yeast, wintergreen oil, liquorice root, aniseed and vanilla go into this four per cent ABV root beer from Cider of Sweden. It's named after the brewery owners' dad and is available in 500ml bottles. It should be served straight from the bottle over ice.