The gin business may be improving. After a period of drooping sales — which many attribute to the overwhelming popularity of vodka — its fortunes are perking up, albeit slowly.
With line extensions offering new takes on an old theme, gin marketers are looking ahead to better times and exciting prospects. Indeed, in the control states, gin actually grew 0.3% in 2003, while it was off by the same percentage nationwide, according to Adams Beverage Research.
PHOTO COURTESY OF PERNOD RICARD
The category is “stabilizing,” according to Paul Campbell, group director and global marketing director for Pernod Ricard USA’s Seagram’s Gin, the category’s top-selling brand. “In the last two or three years we’ve flattened out, basically. We’re up a tenth or down a tenth, but it’s not a huge change; it’s pretty stable. I think the brands in the category are doing some things right, and are really being more aggressive in marketing.” According to Adams Liquor Handbook 2004, Seagram’s Gin actually gained 1.0% nationwide in 2003, to a category-dominating 2.82 million 9-liter cases.
Campbell added that he doesn’t expect “an explosion of gin consumption, but I do think there are some positive things happening in the category that would suggest that we are going to moving marginally forward.”
While some leading brands have been unable to shake the negative column, Sumindi Peiris, senior marketing manager for Bombay Spirits Co. USA, noted that Bombay Sapphire is the only gin to achieve significant growth over the last couple of years. Indeed, in 2003, the superpremium brand upped sales another 7.4% nationwide to 650,000 9-liter cases. (In the control states, the brand grew 11.5%.)
OVERCOMING GIN STEREOTYPES
Overall, gin is generally seen by the public as being a less versatile spirit than vodka, Peiris explained. “Vodka has long been considered a more friendly partner to various mixers and types of cocktails. Vodka also has a reputation for having less of a scent and aftertaste than standard gin, giving it more mass appeal to bar patrons in search of ‘easy’ drinks.”
Increased awareness of the versatility of gin is necessary to overcome such stereotypes, Peiris said, adding, “It’s also important to generate awareness of the fact that gins differ according to their distillation processes and recipes.”
Michelle Chin, senior brand manager for Tanqueray, noted, “As we see an explosion of new restaurants emerging in the U.S. alongside new cuisines, it suggests that consumers’ desire for ‘flavor’ in their food is also translating to their desire for new flavors in their cocktails. This desire for flavor gives gin the perfect opportunity to become highly relevant again, as it is one of the original cocktail spirits.” (Tanqueray and Tanqueray No. TEN are currently in the process of moving from Schieffelin & Somerset to Diageo.)
FLAVORED GINS LAUNCHED
Pernod Ricard USA recently launched Seagram’s Orange Twisted Gin.
This past April, Pernod Ricard USA launched Seagram’0s Orange Twisted Gin, which features mandarin orange flavor. The new item is being supported by a full-scale advertising campaign and a series of national on-premise promotions and tasting sessions. Other spring introductions were Seagram’s Gin & Juice Cranberry and Seagram’s Gin & Juice Green Dragon with Ginseng.
The introductions “allow us to have some news to talk about in our advertising and in our other communications programs,” said Pernod Ricard’s Campbell. “Universally across all white spirits, flavors are driving a lot of the growth.”
Michelle Murray, brand manager, Beefeater and WET by Beefeater for Allied Domecq Spirits, North America, added that products like WET by Beefeater “defy gin convention and bridge the gap between vodka and gin, offering a lighter, more refreshing spirit that is highly mixable. The continued growth of imported vodkas has also created a halo effect on imported gins like Beefeater.”
Allied Domecq’s WET by Beefeater is featuring a
DVD program at select retail outlets this summer.
Murray said she feels it is “hip to be a gin drinker in 2004. It’s trendy to give life to something that is seen as dusty and old. Classic cocktails — simple cocktails– are the consumer’s way of returning to what’s real.”
SUPPORTING THE BRANDS
Tanqueray, the market leader of the imported gin category, continues to conduct promotions in both the on & off-premise, focusing on sampling opportunities and consumer experiential events.
Bombay Sapphire has had significant success introducing the brand to new consumers. “We are fortunate enough to have one of the few brands with deep roots in the world of design,” said Peiris.
Bacardi USA’s Bombay Sapphire debuted a new bottle design this year.
With the brand’s entry into cable television in 2002 under the “Bombay Sapphire Inspired” umbrella — using directors to create “Sapphire Inspired” 60-second spots — the company has expanded into the world of film. And just last month, the brand released its first-ever radio advertising spot. The 60-second composition features the vocal and musical talents of Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, and focuses on two inspired Bombay Sapphire cocktail recipes.
The most popular of the brand’s off-premise communication pieces is the Limited Edition holiday co-pack. It features a uniquely designed Martini glass and a 750 ml bottle of Bombay Sapphire. There is no upcharge on the retail price for the glass. The glass is completely different each year, making it one of the hottest online auction items, with dozens of glasses from past years being bought and sold each week by avid Martini lovers. The co-pack hits beverage alcohol store shelves in October each year. A new bottle design debuted in stores worldwide this past spring.
In May, the brand created a special Martini cocktail inspired by the new Broadway musical “Bombay Dreams,” which opened in New York at the Broadway Theatre. “This joint venture is really the first of its kind,” said Monsell Darville, group marketing director for the Bombay Spirits Co. “Bombay Sapphire is dedicated to recognizing and supporting inspired works of art across diverse realms.”
At Allied Domecq, A Beefeater “Summer Mixer Pack” pairs a 1.75 liter or 750 ml bottle of Beefeater with either a bottle of cranberry juice or tonic water (size varies by market). The pack offers recipes for the Beefeater & Tonic or Beefeater & Cranberry, as well as other classic Beefeater cocktails such as the Beefeater Tom Collins and Beefeater Gimlet. On- and off-premise materials such as table tents, a “Bold Spirit” Beefeater Training Guide and in-store signage are being employed to remind consumers of the brand’s mixability.
Consumers will also be introduced to WET by Beefeater via a summer DVD program. Select stores in metropolitan markets across the country are displaying stand-alone DVD units alongside WET by Beefeater banners. The DVD unit will run a continuous loop of “provocative and unconventional” footage designed to educate consumers about the product, as well as provide suggested product usage and cocktail recipes.
INVESTING IN CONSUMERS
Seagram’s is “investing in the consumer at a higher rate than we were previously,” Campbell explained, “but we’re also more focused on the real drivers of our business.” For example, he noted, the brand is number-one with general market consumers “because of our size, but we’re also number one with the African-American consumer. Our data suggests that the majority of gin drinkers today are African-American consumers, and that’s where some of the growth is coming from to offset some of the losses we’re experiencing. I think we’re focused on trying to keep the consumers that we have in the franchise.”
Seagram’s Gin & Juice Cranberry and Seagram’s Gin & Juice Green Dragon with Ginseng were launched with a series of sampling opportunities held nationally, and a new ad campaign that invites consumers to “Turn the Party On.” The ads feature a glimpse of the brightly colored products, packaged in the trademark bumpy Seagram’s Gin bottle.
The company is in the third year of its “lifestyle context” ad campaign called “Urban Elegance” in 20 key markets around the country. It is designed to show the brand, and gin in general, in a context that is “somewhat more sophisticated than that in which our brand is normally viewed,” Campbell explained. “The idea is to try and elevate the imagery so that our brand is perceived as cool and in style.”
Burnett’s Gin, from Heaven Hill Distilleries, is highlighting its heritage in marketing materials.
At Heaven Hill Distilleries, Burnett’s White Satin Gin’s marketing strategy includes playing up the brand’s heritage. Several months ago, the brand rolled out a new positioning line that appears on all retail materials, including case cards, shelf talkers, shelf strips and bulls eyes: “The gin with the smooth British accent.”
The brand’s roots can be traced to Sir Robert Burnett, the Lord Mayor of London in 1770. An on-pack this summer, where legal, includes a 50 ml of Burnett’s Raspberry Vodka and squeeze bottles of lemon juice on bottles of gin.
James Bruton, marketing manager for William Grant & Sons, which markets Hendrick’s Gin, said he sees growth in the superpremium or boutique segment.
“We see ourselves as a single malt amongst gins,” Bruton continued. “We’re very different — we’re a Scottish gin, not English. We have the rather unusual infusions of cucumber and rose petals.” In-store materials include shelf talkers, case cards and recipe books.
A few years ago, the London-produced Bafferts launched an unusual proposition for a gin. The product contains only four botanicals (versus as many as 19 in some gins) for a much lighter taste. The brand is brought into the U.S. by Wilson Daniel’s.
LEADING BRANDS OF GIN IN THE CONTROL STATES
Pernod Ricard USA
Schieffelin & Somerset
Jim Beam Brands
Laird & Company
Heaven Hill Distilleries
Heaven Hill Distilleries
Total Leading Brands in the Control States
Total Gin in the Control States
Source: Adams Beverage Group Database from NABCA data
Quintessential Gin, from White Rock Distilleries, also debuted here in recent years. Made by Greenall’s, the U.K.’s only remaining independent family-owned gin distillery, the high-end Quintessential is distilled five times, resulting in a lighter gin taste.
The superpremium Plymouth Gin is marketed by the Absolut Spirits Company in the U.S. It is made in the Black Friars Distillery in the heart of Plymouth, the oldest working gin distillery in England. The gin itself is triple-distilled and has a sophisticated gin (juniper) taste.
Another boutique gin seeing growth is English-owned Miller’s Gin. The fastest-growing premium gin in London, according to the company, Miller’s came to the U.S. two years ago and is now marketed in 50 states. It comes in two varieties: an 80-proof version for $26 at retail, and a 90-proof for $29 to $30.
Fashionable and traditional, gin could be making the comeback retailers and suppliers have been waiting for. With new flavors, high-end activity and a migrating consumer interested in new and different taste sensations, there’s a real possibility that this time it could happen.