Nielsen insight: a colourful flavour revival

There’s a case for saying that pink was the catalyst for the flavour revival in alcohol. Over the past couple of years, the market has been flooded by dozens of pink spirit offers and we have seen the pink effect coming through in other categories, such as cider. The boundaries are increasingly blurring and new and unusual flavours are appearing across most sectors of the off-trade.

While flavoured alcohol – comprising wine, beer, cider and spirits – holds only 7.8% share of the total off-trade, it is driving value growth for the category, adding £310 million in sales with growth of 34%, faster than the current growth of craft beer and unflavoured gin, two of the big on-trend drinks categories of recent times. Though flavoured drinks have higher than average prices, this isn’t deterring shoppers. We’re seeing new consumers entering the flavoured alcohol segment, and they’re clearly enjoying those drinks, as repeat purchase is growing.  

Rhubarb is a great example of the flavour evolution. It is the fastest-growing flavour within the off-trade, worth £44 million, an increase of £31 million in the last year alone. Some 86% of these sales are coming from gin and an influx of NPD in the category. Rhubarb has proved so popular that vodka and cider brands have capitalised on it and released flavour extensions. Rhubarb will continue to be a leading flavour within the off-trade and I expect to see more product innovation, especially from white spirits, in the next 12 months.

Raspberry is another flavour that’s seen significant growth in the off-trade over the year, up £15 million and worth £28 million. Though raspberry is traditionally associated with cider, the flavour is actually in decline in that category. Raspberry is now the fastest-growing flavour across vodka, gin and rum, where it is proving to be a growth driver for otherwise declining brands. This is a key flavour profile to be featured in-store through the summer. 

Orange has really come to life in the last 12 months. It was worth only
£1 million a year ago and has now amassed £20 million in sales. Gin has been the key in driving this, with products such as Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla and Whitley Neill Blood Orange leading the charge. Orange has proved so successful that it now holds 6% share of flavoured gin in the off-trade. As with the evolution of rhubarb, which started out with gin and moved through to vodka and rum, we’re starting to see early innovation coming through in orange-flavoured vodka. Orange rum could be around the corner. Balancing the flavour offerings across categories will be key so shoppers don’t feel overwhelmed by too much choice.

As the traction for flavoured alcohol increases in the off-trade, brands need to be prepared to defend their space. The flavour profiles featured here will be key, but so too is anticipating shopping trends and looking to what may be next. We’re starting to see blueberry-flavoured products entering the market and this looks set to be a popular future choice. 

What’s for sure is that the evolution of flavour profiles will continue to be a disruptor within the off trade – and summer is a key season to get in on the game.  

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