The Juniper Spirit
Once the most popular of the white spirits,
the gin category is trying to regain some of its past standing.
photo courtesy of
Allied Domecq Spirits USA
By Howard Riell
The gin category is hoping to follow the same basic formula that has worked so well for vodka — new products and flavors, a younger demographic, higher-end presentation and promoting mixability.
Overall, category growth was slightly down in 2004, according to Adams Beverage Group Research, off 0.3% to just under 11 million 9-liter cases. While this decline is very modest, it stands in stark comparison to the healthy growth rates of the other so-called white spirits categories, including vodka, rum and tequila. While category leader Seagram’s Gin fell 1.6% last year, it still sells more than 2.77 million 9-liter cases, and the brand has had notable success with its line of flavored Seagram’s Gin & Juice. Second best-selling Tanqueray posted sales of 1.44 million 9-liter cases, and the premium import along with its superpremium Tanqueray Ten line extension are poised for growth.
Once again, the most successful gin is Bombay Sapphire, the superpremium brand imported by Bacardi USA, with sales eclipsing the 700,000 9-liter case mark, an 8.5% gain. The brand has never tried to “just be a gin,” according to Sumindi Peiris, group brand director for Bacardi. “We try to be a superpremium clear spirit, and that’s how we’ve always positioned ourselves. It’s an image category — lifestyle and image.”
The superpremium Bombay Sapphire, from Bacardi USA, had an 8.5% sales gain nationally in 2004.
Bombay’s ad campaign “has evolved,” she pointed out. “It’s become ‘Bombay Sapphire Inspired.’ That’s our tag line.” The goal off-premise is “communicating some of our drink strategies, and there is a strong effort to showcase for consumers the versatility of the brand, and that the brand can be mixed. It doesn’t have to be just Sapphire and tonic. We have great cocktails that can really fit with everyone’s profile.”
Peiris added, “At the end of the day, though our positioning is to be a superpremium clear spirit, we are still located in the gin section. For us, it’s about getting cases on the floor.” A new three-case rack gets quantity out on the sales floor in a surprisingly small footprint.
Allied Domecq’s premium import, Beefeater, also bucked category trends last year, showing a modest sales increase (up 1.6%) to 620,000 9-liter cases.
Michelle Murray, Beefeater brand manager, believes the category is going to benefit from consumer demand for classic cocktails like Gin & Tonic and the Gin Martini. “Martinis are still very hot, and started as a transition into vodka. [Consumers seem to be] coming back to gin.”
Murray said Americans are busy sampling new taste profiles, “and there’s a general acceptance and even an expectation of flavor in the marketplace right now. Take a product like Wet by Beefeater, which is flavored with pear. It has been able to defy gin convention and bridge that gap between vodka and gin by offering something that really transcends the category.”
“The challenge of gin,” said Murray, “is staying relevant to gin drinkers while also re-engaging them as they move through their different life stages and cocktail desires. Toward that end, we have revitalized Beefeater’s marketing campaign to target a new audience and ensure continued growth for the brand.”
“This is gin” is the tag line for Beefeater’s marketing campaign, which tries to portray legendary quality of gin in a variety of clever treatments.
A new campaign called ‘This is Gin’ focuses on Beefeater’s “legendary quality as a full-bodied true gin,” said Murray. And promotional materials invite consumers to “see things for what they really are in a very clever, witty and relevant way.” The brand features off-premise materials like counter mats and shelf talkers with recipe tear pads. There is a summer co-pack program with cranberry juice or tonic. And holiday program will have glassware with updated holiday graphics.
“We’re still awaiting the big turnaround [in the category], which is not quite here yet,” said Paul Campbell, group director for Seagram’s Brands, Pernod Ricard USA. “But we’re still hopeful enough that the business will rebound.”
The “big challenge,” Campbell said, is recruiting new, younger consumers into gin. “We still have more mature consumers who continue to be very loyal to the category. But we don’t have our share of the new, younger consumers who are coming into spirits consumption.”
The pre-mixed, ready-to-drink line of Seagram’s Gin & Juice has seen some success and has unveiled new packaging and flavors.
In April, pre-mixed, ready-to-drink Seagram’s Gin & Juice unveiled a packaging redesign. In celebration of the re-launch, Seagram’s introduced Seagram’s Gin & Juice Red Fury, created from a proprietary blend of tropical fruit flavors enhanced with ginseng.
“Gin was down slightly in 2004, and it is a tale of two cities,” said Ed Gualtieri, executive vice president of marketing Barton Brands (a division of Constellation Brands), which markets Fleishmann’s and Barton gins. “The imports, which represent about 22% of the category, were up modestly, while domestic gins, which are 78% of the category, took a hit.”
Still, several value-priced brands managed to increase sales in 2004. For example, both Barton and Fleischmann’s gins, from Barton Brands, grew modestly, to 360,000 and 347,000 9-liter cases respectively. And McCormick Distilling’s McCormick Gin gained 3.3% to 220,000 9-liter cases. Vic Morrison, vice president of marketing for McCormick, sees strength at the lower end of gin’s price spectrum. “We’ve had good growth. We have a niche to fill, and a quality level that we think our loyal customers recognize. It’s a good buy.” The company markets the Cambridge, Congress and Royal Sovereign brands as well as McCormick’s.
Quintessential Gin, from White Rock Distilleries, has a new package and formulation.
Though Burnett’s White Satin Gin, from Heaven Hill Distilleries, saw a slight decrease in sales, to 370,000 9-liter cases, the company is fairly optimistic.
“There has certainly been a lot of work done and money spent by the category leaders, including the import leaders,” said Larry Kass, Heaven Hill’s director of corporate communications. “They have spent lots and lots of money on consumer advertising, which has really helped to open up some new markets. So has product development.”
“Gin is actually starting to pick up a bit, I think, with the vodka category having exploded to such depths that it has,” added Reid Massie, brand manager for Burnett’s. “All of the major companies want to have a gin in their portfolio.”
Indeed, Massie pointed out, “We’re seeing more cocktails made with gin. Consumers are rediscovering gin, if you will, because it was a predominant spirit years ago. Everybody is still into flavored vodkas, but they want to try the next thing. It’s definitely right there for them.”
Burnett’s is available in 1.75 liter, 1.0 liter, 750 ml, a 750 ml carry pack, 375 ml, and 200 ml sizes. The company will focus on standard point-of-sale for the mainstream market, and “some different types of p-o-s” for the urban market, according to Massie, including metal signs. This summer, the brand is offering an on-pack promotion with Burnett’s gin and vodka.
Leading Brands of Gin
(Thousands of 9-Liter Cases)
|Seagram’s Gin||Pernod Ricard USA||2,906||2,760||2,791||2,820||2,774||-1.6%|
|Bombay Sapphire||Bacardi USA||455||550||605||650||705||8.5%|
|Gilbey’s Gin||Jim Beam Brands||657||650||645||605||550||-9.1%|
White Satin Gin
|Heaven Hill Distilleries||380||375||380||375||370||-1.3%|
|Barton Gin||Barton Brands||352||355||355||356||360||1.1%|
|Fleischmann’s Gin||Barton Brands||379||371||351||345||347||0.6%|
|McCormick Gin||McCormick Distilling||210||207||208||213||220||3.3%|
|Total Leading Brands||8,403||8,253||8,320||8,318||8,271||-0.6%|
Other Superpremium Entries
In recent years, there have been a host of high-end gins coming into the U.S. market, trying to emulate the success of the boutique, high-end vodka segment: Hendrick’s, Bafferts, Citadelle, Hampton’s, Broker’s, and from Holland, Zuidam and Van Gogh, among several others. And though they’ve all had varying degrees of success, no brand has really broken out.
The Absolut Spirits Co. is using a sampling program to try to raise awareness of its superpremium Plymouth Gin.
Said Paul Coulombe, ceo of White Rock Distilleries, “No one’s had a really high superpremium gin able to captivate that price category. We saw an opportunity to elevate the playing field, so to speak, in the gin category just as in the vodka category, so we created a new, very high-end superpremium gin package called Quintessential Gin.”
In April, White Rock relaunched Quintessential Gin with updated packaging and formulation. The product is now distilled five times and has added the essence of lotus leaves and lavender to the traditional flavor profile of juniper and other botanicals. The tall, tapered bottle features a blue fade and dominant Q. “The new Quintessential Gin was designed to appeal to a more upscale, sophisticated gin drinker,” said Coulombe. It is available in 50 ml, 750 ml ($28 to $29 suggested retail), 1 liter and 1.75 liter sizes.
“There is some indication that people are willing to spend a little bit more money on their gin purchases. We’re gambling on that,” Coulombe said.
The high-end Plymouth Gin, which is imported by Absolut Spirits Co., is another superpremium that is optimistic about potential sales, said Jeffrey Moran, spokesman for Plymouth. “The stalwarts who have been around for a while, us included, have seen people become more and more interested in gin. We have been spending a lot more time focusing not only on bartenders but also sampling in order to raise the awareness of the product.”
Skyy Spirits recently acquired distribution rights to the high-end Martin Miller’s Gin.
An important step in building on the current momentum, Moran said, is “breaking down some of the myths, like ‘gin is only a gin-and-tonic.’ In fact, you can take gin into a variety of other areas and really enjoy it in the same way you can other spirits.” In the months ahead, Plymouth will be expanding distribution into some additional markets.
For its part, Skyy Spirits has recently entered the gin sweepstakes, with U.S. distribution rights for Martin Miller’s Gin and Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength Gin. “Gin is a very exciting category with renewed consumer interest,” said Anthony Foglio, Skyy’s chairman. “Martin Miller fits within our portfolio of ultra-premium spirits with potential for growth.”
“Hopefully there is going to be a huge comeback. A lot of these new gins are really elevating the market. We think Miller’s stacks up very well against them,” said Monica Daniels, Skyy’s brand manager for specialty imports.
And for the entire category, marketers hope their efforts will lead to a long-awaited turnaround