The Juniper Spirit

photo courtesy of
Allied Domecq Spirits USA

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 nationally in 2004, according to Adams Beverage Group Research, off 0.3% to just under 11 million 9-liter cases. In the control states, the category was declined 0.7%, to more than 2.43 million mixed 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% nationally last year (down 11.4% in the control states), it still sells more than 2.77 million 9-liter cases nationally, 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 nationally (down 1.7% in the control states), and the premium import along with its superpremium Tanqueray Ten line extension are poised for growth.

The superpremium Bombay Sapphire, from Bacardi USA, had an 8.5% sales gain nationally in 2004.

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 nationally, an 8.5% gain (up 6.5% on the control states). 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.”

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.

The pre-mixed, ready-to-drink line of Seagram’s Gin & Juice has seen some success and has unveiled new packaging and flavors.

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 nationally (though the brand declined slightly in the control states).

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.”

“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.

Wet debuted in December 2000 in Miami’s Delano Hotel, then rolled out over the course of the next nine months to “key trend areas” like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and New York. “We do lots of stealth, grassroots marketing in our trends markets. We’ve been basing our successes more on buzz, PR and consumer awareness than volume.”
Staying Relevant

“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.”

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.

Burnett’s Gin, from Heaven Hill Distilleries, is offering a variety of p-o-s materials this summer.

And a 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.”

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.


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