The biggest trends in independent retail – Part 1
Drinks Retailing has polled 20 independent retailers from across the UK to pinpoint trends in style and flavour across spirits, mixers and sparkling wine. Retailers also reveal their bestsellers and rising stars.
Although the vodka category is continuing to serve tropical fruit-infused offerings such as Smirnoff Mango & Passionfruit Twist, retro flavours are holding the top spot for drinkers who are seeking a little post-lockdown normality. As flavoured spirits continue to evolve, sweet and nostalgic flavours of Jaffa Cake and Toffee - courtesy of brands such as Thunder and Todka - are creeping into the list of bestselling vodkas.
Big players such as Bacardi’s Grey Goose and Moët Hennessy’s Belvedere continue to rank among the bestselling vodkas. And Belvedere isn’t the only Polish vodka to attract attention; the country’s Potocki Rye also gets several mentions. The vodka is made by master distiller Jan-Roman Potocki without charcoal filtration for extra character. Another Polish product, Zubrowka Bison Grass, also offers an alternative for adventurous consumers.
With many drinkers becoming increasingly aware of what they put into their bodies, additive-free vodka is on the rise. Crystal Head gets lots of mentions from retailers across the UK for its promise of pure vodka that is “completely” free from artificial additives. Crystal Head also attracts for its skull-shaped bottle.
The gin boom may be slowing, but British gins are still enjoying a moment in the sun with the pandemic leaving consumers with a taste for locally-produced beverages. London’s Sacred received several mentions across both the top and trending brands, being one of the few gins in the country to be produced using vacuum distillation, as a “way to preserve the richness of flavour and aromas” of the brand’s botanicals.
As consumers are beginning to favour more sustainability in brands, some retailers have seen the Isle of Wight Distillery’s Mermaid gin do well. With a natural cork stopper, compostable seal and biodegradable paper neck label, Mermaid has been awarded a Plastic-Free Standard by anti-plastic campaign group A Plastic Planet.
Also named by several retailers, Harley House’s Pure Sussex gin blends a number of botanicals found on the South Downs to create a traditional juniper gin with light floral notes.
Among the bigger producers, Pernod Ricard’s Monkey 47, William Grant & Sons’ Hendrick’s and Beam Suntory’s Sipsmith remain strong, with several retailers noting these brands as their top selling gins.
Rum is seeing rapid developments in both flavour and packaging. Dessert-inspired drinks such as Finders’ The Spirit of Christmas Pudding rum, Pontefract’s Liquorice rum and Jaffa Cake rum were noted by retailers as some of their bestsellers, offering consumers a comforting trip down memory lane after a turbulent couple of years.
Caribbean brand Plantation was the bestselling rum for a handful of retailers. Owned by Cognac producer Maison Ferrand, the rum is finished in oak casks at the parent company’s estate in France and has a range with a variety of expressions, from single cask rums to tropical pineapple.
Diplomático received a host of mentions from the retailers we spoke to. Distilled at the foot of the Andes in Venezuela, Diplomático operates with three core sustainability pillars to reduce its environmental impact.
Several retailers also mentioned brands with nontraditional packaging. Stepping away from muted colour schemes, bold monochromatic packaging is seen by brands such as Pull the Pin and Halewood’s Dead Man’s Fingers. Produced in Devon, Pull the Pin strives to bring “experimental spirits” to consumers, with distiller Tom Foster taking inspiration from a childhood “surrounded by foodies.”
While flavours are in favour for many spirits, retailers say customers still prefer traditional tequilas, with blanco and silver remaining strong favourites. Diageo’s Don Julio was cited as a bestseller by many, testament to its early entry into the UK’s 100% agave scene. Bacardi-owned superpremium Patrón ranks as well.
Patrón also stands out for its high agave content, along with Ocho 8, which uses an average of 8kg of agave to produce a single litre of tequila.
Some flavoured tequilas were mentioned by retailers. Cazcabel Coffee made the list of trending tequilas and, given drinkers’ penchant for flavours in other spirits categories, this might be a trend to come.
Although big players such as Hennessy and Rémy Martin proved popular with the retailers we spoke to, Château Montifaud VSOP Cognac made its mark as one of the bestselling Cognacs. It has an ageing process that takes up to 10 years, rather than the minimum of four required for a VSOP.
As independent retailers seem to be leaning away from big brands, smaller powerhouses such as Hine are making an impact, with the brand’s Rare VSOP Cognac ranking highly as French brandies continue to dominate the market. However, both Germany and Spain are catching up, with Asbach Uralt and Osborne Veterano Solera Reserva trending in a handful of independents.
While Cognac holds the top spot across the board, the brandy landscape is being shaken up by products such as Seven Tails XO – a hybrid Cognac, Armagnac and French brandy - and Somerset Cider Brandy 5 Year Old. Given that spirits consumers are becoming ever more adventurous in other categories, twists on traditional brandies may be the next big thing.