Rum category offers 'a lot to discover' as its popularity grows

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Taking a punt: more consumers are exploring rum as trust in the category grows (Credit: Getty/MarioGuti)
Taking a punt: more consumers are exploring rum as trust in the category grows (Credit: Getty/MarioGuti)

Related tags Rum Spirits Cga Finance

Rum has grown in popularity as an increasing number of consumers who traditionally drink other spirits “take a punt” on the category, according to Speciality Brands rum ambassador Dean MacGregor.

MacGregor, who has more than 10-years’ experience working in the rum category, explained many drinkers are exploring the variety rum has to offer and want to know where drinks come from, attributed in part to increased transparency from producers.

He said: “[Producers] are more willing to share their story and production methods rather than it being an industry secret. Education has grown as well within the rum ​category.

“Consumers and bartenders alike are starting to discover the differences between the different Caribbean islands, as an example. People are starting to zone in and try different things.

“As there's more trust in the category, consumers are starting to discover what's actually out there and the difference and the variety.

“People are taking the punt, which is fantastic to see. It's been bubbling for a while, but now it's finally starting to rise.”

MacGregor added rum has also “recruited” drinkers from other spirits categories as brands with more “provenance” come through.

Trusted brands 

He continued: “A lot of people are being recruited from the whiskey, cognac, agave and other spirits categories. We're seeing more and more people exploring cane juice rums from there as well.

“It's good to see trusted brands ​are coming through, brands ​with more provenance.

“People are less happy with pirates, mythical creatures and things like that in the high end.”

According to CGA data​ to February this year, sales of golden/dark rum saw 45.8% growth compared with the previous year, with a rise in total value from £580m to £846m while white rum saw a 31.2% increase, from £198m to £259m.

Comparatively, the whiskey and gin categories saw a 20.6% and 39.1% rise in total value respectively.

Pictured: Speciality Brands rum ambassador Dean MacGregor

In addition, rum sales made up 13% of the spirits category, having achieved more than £1bn in on-trade​ sales in the 12-months to July last year. Premium rums in particular saw success with 85% growth during this period, according to CGA​.

To tap into the growing rum trend, Macgregor advised operators can maximise their offering by exploring rums from different countries themselves and showcasing the bottles on the back bar to open a dialogue and share the story of a particular rum with customers. 

He continued: “Barbados has always had really good output, really good quality, beautiful and elegant rums, [offering] a good [introduction] into the category.

“Jamaica, [offers] slightly more funky and tropical flavours, rums from Puerto Rico or Cuba are a little bit lighter in profile, [look for something] easy-going, and approachable.

Extra dimension 

“[Cane rums] from Martinique or something as well will really showcase the full breadth of the category. It's a bit pricier a bit funkier, a bit more tropical and vibrant, then you've got a broad range across the category represented.

“With that you then have a lot more in your arsenal and can use them as such when making drinks. Instead of 50ml in cocktails ​you can add 10ml or 15ml to different things to add an extra dimension to different drinks.”

Macgregor added highball drinks work "really well" with rum, having benefitted from the evolution of mixers and the variety now available following the gin boom, as well as a twist on things like an Irish Coffee or an old fashioned in addition to classics like the Cuba Libre.

Though it is not just drinks menu rum can develop, it can also be used in the kitchen to enhance both sweet and savoury dishes, in particular with buttery dishes and things like rum cakes or with chocolate pairings, he continued.

Macgregor concluded: “If you're looking to introduce customers to [the category], for someone who is a traditionally a vodka or gin drinker, you could introduce them to something like rum and tonics, which work very well [together].

“If people are whiskey drinkers, and traditionally drink things over ice or old fashioned, a more robust rum, maybe something from Guyana, quite robust blends [would work for them] or if someone wants something a bit greener or grassier, there will be something for them as well.

“Rum ticks all boxes, it could be a sipping after dinner spirit or something a bit livelier like a rum and coconut water. There’s a lot to discover.”

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