Drinks Trends: Flavour & Infusion - essential drinks for pubs

By Jessica Mason

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Jack daniel Drink

New drinks trends for pubs
One of the best ways for drinks companies to ensure long-term growth is through the launch of variants designed to hook new consumers. Here, we take a look at the drinks no pub should be without.

The drink in question smells like a hot cross bun. It’s sweet and warming. It has the aroma of home-baking — a comfortable association. But then, the branding bears no doily or teacake. Instead, the packaging conveys edginess, rebellion and a slightly vintage feel to it.

Yes, this drink may be consumed in an armchair, but not one with embroidered sleeves to the echoes of a game of Newmarket, one in a pub where the music and atmosphere reassures visitors that they are ‘in the know’ by simply being there. The drink makes one final nostalgic assault on the senses.

The tasting note should read: ‘If granny was a hipster.’


People in their 20s and 30s may think their drinks choices are considered and their own. But infused drinks are incredibly clever. Liking them is the easy bit.

The emerging flavoured spirits market is getting crowded. At the sweeter end of the spectrum there are honey variants Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey and Jim Beam Honey, then there are cherry ones, such as Southern Comfort Bold Black Cherry, perhaps Red Stag would fit in too, or would it be better sitting alongside mixed spiced variants, such as Sailor Jerry and Captain Morgan Original Spiced Gold?

There are pokier cinnamon flavours from Fireball and newcomer Fire Eater, and a rum taking after whisky with Bacardi Oakheart’s smoky oaky spirit.


“We have recognised a gap in the market,” says Crispin Stephens, American whiskey marketing manager at Bacardi Brown-Forman, explaining that “with young adult consumers increasingly seeking new flavours and exciting drinking experiences” there has been “a surge in the popularity of flavoured spirits”.

Stephens adds: “With whiskey viewed as a spirit for an older audience and seen as less accessible than white spirits, the introduction of new flavours and brand extensions, such as Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, has successfully drawn non-whiskey drinkers into the fold.”


So, in truth, its emergence was about recruiting a younger base of consumers who’d grow up knowing the brand and trade up to other styles within it.  

“We thought, who enjoys our whiskey and who doesn’t?” says Jack Daniel’s master taster Jeff Norman. “Then we thought, how can we invite more people to enjoy it? It will appeal to a younger crowd who prefer sweeter drinks. As they get older, they look for a more refined whiskey. This could help forge an affinity with Jack Daniel’s.”


Jim Grierson, Maxxium UK on-trade sales director, says: “Red Stag by Jim Beam and Jim Beam Honey tap into the thriving Bourbon trend in the UK, offering authentic flavours.” Grierson says these flavoured variants are “infused with natural and familiar flavours that consumers can easily relate to”. The plan, however, was always to “appeal to consumers who wouldn’t otherwise consider drinking Bourbon” and attract “young adult drinkers to the category”.

Similarly, Bacardi Oakheart, which was launched in 2011 and backed by a £3m marketing campaign, is a blend of the distillery’s Bacardi Superior and gold rums, and was developed to fill a gap in the market, this time for a spiced rum with a more masculine edge, showing drinks companies are getting more inventive in efforts to broaden their target market.


Proof Drinks recently won the rights to distribute Cazcabel Tequila in the UK; alongside Blanco Tequila it has two variants — Coffee and Honey — in its portfolio.

Cazcabel Coffee Tequila blends South American coffee with the spirit, while Cazcabel Honey is a mix of Blanco and honey, which can be consumed in “innovative cocktails or neat over ice”, according to Proof Drinks sales director Luke Wade.


“The addition of sweeter tastes and flavours has enabled brands to leverage connections with non-whiskey drinkers and become relevant among a new audience, who often prefer sweeter serves and cocktails, reinvigorating the whiskey category and attracting non-whiskey drinkers,” says Stephens.

Bacardi Brown-Forman’s Fire Eater, a blend of American whiskey, cinnamon and brown sugar, is bottled at 35% ABV and markets itself as a “hot yet smooth shot”, attracting a younger audience with its vintage circus-themed campaign.


“Growing at +340%, flavoured whiskey has risen in popularity among young adults. With the shots segment also growing at six times the rate of total spirits (+10%), Fire Eater is set to appeal to LDA (legal drinking age) 24-year-old drinkers who favour sweeter drinks for late-night occasions,” says Stephens, adding that pubs are very much on the agenda for sales of the new drink.

“The heavyweight on-trade campaign will target select bars and circuits, driving awareness and trial. Incorporating the 19th-century circus story evoked by the brand, the campaign will be supported by in-bar price promotions, experiential sampling, and eye-catching PoS. Bringing the circus to town, the campaign will aim to reach more than 150,000 target consumers,” says Stephens.


At Diageo three years ago, Morgan’s Spiced got a promotion to Captain in order to fall in line with the rest of the world, where it was already being sold as Captain Morgan’s Spiced. The move was a good one and in 2012 the brand saw record sales growth and became only the sixth premium spirit ever to sell 10 million cases in one year.

To follow, in the summer of 2012, Bacardi Brown-Forman capitalised further on the trend for flavoured spirits by launching a cherry-infused Southern Comfort. The Southern Comfort Bold Black Cherry variant targets 18 to 24-year-olds and followed a lime-flavoured version it introduced the year before.


The copycat behaviour continues to squeeze the spirits sector and highlights how new flavours and additions are the simplest form of innovation, but the sales speak for themselves.

Stephens says: “Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey has delivered £44.1m worth of sales for the category, which has been boosted by the imported whiskey segment, which is worth over £656m and the flavoured whiskey segment.”

In addition, the Fire Eater launch has been backed by a £1.5m marketing drive, which includes social media, digital communications and sampling.

Aperol — a mix of ingredients including bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb and cinchona — is owned by Gruppo Campari and has seen its signature serve, Aperol Spritz (Aperol with Prosecco and a splash of soda), grow in popularity to become a cult drink in many countries. The brand has become official global spirits partner of Manchester United and Bob Kunze-Concewitz, Gruppo Campari CEO, thinks the deal “will deliver brand exposure on a massive scale”.


“Interest in flavoured spirits has been growing for some time, something we’ve seen with our range of Antica Sambuca flavours and the UK launch of Fireball liqueur, made with cinnamon and whisky,” says Dan Bolton, MD of Hi-Spirits.


“It gives bars a quick way to offer a wider range of spirits and interesting serves.”

Hi-Spirits has refreshed the Antica range by unveiling Antica Sambuca Tropical, a blend of orange, mango and pineapple, which replaces a previous Orange & Mango version. “It offers increased scope for summer drinks menus,” says Bolton.

At the premium end of the bar market, “bartenders still have as much interest in infusing their own flavours as they do in buying ‘off the peg’ flavoured spirits”, believes Bolton. “We see Buffalo Trace White Dog Mash #1, the un-aged spirit from Kentucky, infused with flavours such as chestnut and herbs in different bars, to create unique house serves.”     


The demand for better-quality drinks goes hand in hand with the call for more exciting flavours, infusions and blends. To this end, Halewood International has repositioned Lamb’s Spiced with a new liquid and a hexagon-shaped bottle design.


James Wright, international sales and marketing controller at Halewood International, says the decision to review the taste was led by consumers’ preferences. “The growth in the spiced rum category, combined with research by Halewood, has influenced the taste of Lamb’s Spiced,” he adds.

However, premium drinks that dabble in interesting flavours need not be alcoholic at all. In fact, soft drinks are edging into this arena as well.

For instance, independent juice brand Cawston Press, known for its still juice blends in the grocery sector, uses flavour combos such as apple & rhubarb and beetroot. Cawston is approaching the on-trade with a new line-up, and unveiled an £18m soft-drinks plan (to triple the size of its £6m business in three years), which will see the brand evolving to offer premium softs in cans, ideal for stylish pubs. 


“Apple & rhubarb and cloudy apple are inspired by quintessential British garden flavours. Each is made with pressed fruit juices gently mixed with sparkling water for a light drink. Like all Cawston’s products, they use only juice from apples picked at prime ripeness and pressed within 48 hours — there are no concentrates, artificial sweeteners, preservatives or colourings,” says Cawston sales director Dan Broughton.  

While the UK is in keen on flavour, a drink’s premium cues also need to be present. Good-quality drinks will be adopted, as long as they do not appear too faddish.


“As more flavoured spirits come on the market, the challenge for brand owners is to continue driving innovation while maintaining interest. A range of flavours requires careful brand management,” says Hi-Spirits’ Bolton. 

It needs to be interesting without being too gimmicky for a flavour to stay in favour.

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