Speaking at the Drink Tank conference in London this month (27 November), CGA’s Phil Montgomery established that, amid spirit category growth that now sees close to 23m consumers drinking spirits in the on-trade, which is roughly half of the eating and drinking out population in the country, the ongoing success of gin was a “really positive story”.
As the overall spirits sector has grown by 7.2%, an increase of £481.7m, the volume of gin sold has increased by 35.9% – with tequila the second fastest mover at 4.6% growth ahead a 3% spike in rum.
“When we talk about gin we have to reflect on the phenomenal position the category is in,” Montgomery explained, stating that the growth of gin was so strong that it had added the equivalent of the blended whisky category to its sales figures thanks in part to the proliferation of premium and flavoured variants.
According to Montgomery growth has seen the number of gin consumers in the UK reach 11m – on parity with where vodka was a year ago. It has also embedded itself well into consumer repertoires. According to CGA, the average number of spirit brands in consumers’ repertoire across spirit categories numbers 10.1 – with more than a third of those made up of gin variants.
Growth hinges on spirit and mixer combos
However, despite the category once again posting impressive numbers, Montgomery believes that gin consumers are among the least loyal and ripe for picking.
“There is potential to recruit from gin,” he explains. “It’s just a matter of identifying which trends are out there and which are the right fit.”
While rum is regularly mooted as the most viable challenger to gin, and figures show that consumers are engaging with the category and broadening their repoertoires – especially regarding standard golden rum – Montgomery wonders what premium iterations will look like.
Stressing that with sales largely driven by price and visibility, he argued that operators need to be bolder within the category and upsell where possible beyond cocktails and standard spirit and mixer combinations, with premium options a prime reason for the gin’s popularity.
What’s more, with tequila only accounting for a 2% share of spirits, and “so wedded to the shot occasion” Montgomery asserts that the category has more of a journey ahead of it than rum.
While 69% of Brits now drinking spirit and mixer combinations, he argued that it was currently unclear how this style of serve would infiltrate and spread within the tequila category.