Spirits Summit

Vodka still has a lot of work to do to keep drinkers engaged

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Different tipples: Jamie Staib from spirit brand Chase said vodka needed to stand apart from gin
Different tipples: Jamie Staib from spirit brand Chase said vodka needed to stand apart from gin
Vodka needs to ensure it sets itself apart from gin in order to ensure consumers are interested, delegates at The Morning Advertiser’s Spirits Summit (2 October) heard.

Spirit brand Chase brand development manager Jamie Staib told the audience how operators should inform their customers about the back story around vodka, in a bid to help keep their interest, at the Loft in Shoreditch, east London.

He said: “In a market where pubs and bars have whole menus dedicated to different gin and tonic serves, vodka needs to stand up and be heard too.

“There’s no longer interest in cheap, entry-level vodka or super-expensive ‘bling’ brands. Top-end bars are less interested in using them and today’s consumers expect more.

“Consumers can’t try before they buy with vodka as they often can with beer, so we have to be prepared to win their interest with the back story.”

Educational experience

Consumer trends

Staib said overall out-of-home alcoholic drinks market volume sales had declined by 2.6% in the year to mid-June (according to CGA). He added this was down to certain consumer trends:

• Health-conscious consumers

• Demand for ethically and sustainably sourced produce with provenance

• An interest in ‘brag-worthy, premium experiences’ for social media sharing

• Growth of cocktail culture

He added that almost half of the 12m vodka drinkers in the UK are aged 34 and under, and these generations are most likely to be affected by consumer trends.

Vodka can certainly tap into the experiential trend that consumer demand is calling for, according to Staib.

He added: “Two words people tend to use to describe vodka were ‘pure’ and ‘clean’ – not 'exciting' or 'interesting' at all. There is so much more to talk about when it comes to premium vodkas.

“People want an educational experience. They are inclined to pay more for vodka when they learn about the spirit’s provenance, production, sustainability, tasting notes and serving suggestions.

“More of the world’s top bars now offer a range of vodkas from different bases or with different production methods such as grain, grape and potato.”

While Staib emphasised the importance of vodka’s heritage, he also highlighted how it remains a firm favourite in the spirits category.

Volume stolen

He said: “Vodka is the biggest spirits category by volume and value across the whole of the UK on-trade.

“One third of all spirits sold in the UK consist of vodka. It has very much been the grandfather of the spirits world since the 15th century but, as a whole, the category has been in decline for a few years now. Global vodka sales fell in 2016 and is continuing to do so today.”

Staib also mentioned how gin has taken vodka’s thunder somewhat. He said: “It is fairly common knowledge that gin has taken the limelight away from vodka. Some 10 years ago, you could count on both hands how many distilleries were licensed to produce gin there were in Britain.

“Now there are hundreds. Unsurprisingly, gin has subsequently stolen a considerable amount of vodka volume in the market.

“Despite this though, in the same time, premium vodka product share has seen positive growth of 2% to 133.6m cases (according to market researchers IWSR).”

The Spirits Summit, now in its fifth year, was powered by The Morning Advertiser in association with sponsors Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Warner Edward, Slingsby Gin, Starward and London Cocktail Week

Related topics: Spirits & Cocktails

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