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Emerging brands / Making a splash

With half of 2006 already under our belt, the db team has taken a good look at the UK market to see what brands are making waves. Who will be making the biggest impact? Watch this space…

Over the following pages is a collection of brands we at the drinks business believe will flourish in the near future. Why? Because of a mixture of consumer trends, clever marketing, a memorable taste, striking packaging and, of course, growth figures to date. “Emerging” for us means the brand has yet to realise it’s potential, and for that reason the brand may not be new, but has so far perhaps not been pushed hard enough. On the other hand, some younger brands have already “emerged” – reached a high level of sales and recognition – and are therefore not included in this text.

Of course, readers and brand owners won’t necessarily agree with everything we’ve selected, and will no doubt have their own ideas as to what is or isn’t an emerging brand, including products we’ve failed to mention. However, based on the amount of information we amass on a daily basis, we certainly think the products in these snapshots, be they in soft drinks, beers, wines or spirits, will succeed in the UK market, and soon.

The big names in the beer market are well-established, and it looks unlikely that a new lager brand is going to enter the top 10 any time soon. Mainstream lager is a healthy category, but the brands that are responsible for the bulk of sales look likely to remain there. That said, there are other segments of the beer category that provide the opportunity for a new brand to make some headway.

Specialist and imported beers are growing in popularity, as consumer interest in both taste and provenance continues to grow. Leffe and Hoegaarden, both in InBev’s stable, have been contributing to this growth. Despite Stella Artois’ leading position, InBev is not being complacent about this brand either. Recognising a growing interest in specialist beers, the new Brasserie Artois range includes wheat beer Peeterman Artois.

European flavour
Michael Cook of beer importer Pierhead has some advice for spotting the next popular import to the UK. “When you get a surge in a migration of population, that sparks off a demand for beers from that country. With the recent increase in the Polish population in the UK, the demand for Polish beers has shot through the roof.” With next year’s addition of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU, these may be countries to look to for the next big brand.

To ensure its stake in the premium lager market, Foster’s will soon be introducing Foster’s Twist, an easy-drinking beer with a light taste of citrus. A significant marketing budget is likely to give it the momentum it needs to take a share of this category. Also in Scottish & Newcastle’s stable is John Smiths, with massive increases in sales making it the current star of the ale category.

Enter the tiger
A brand to look out for is Tiger beer, even if only in terms of sheer ambition. As a leading brand in a number of Asian markets, Tiger is in a strong position to make an impression on the UK market, yet has remained a minor player until now. A UK office was established late last year, which should result in an increase in brand activity.

Meanwhile Cobra looks likely to continue its relentless activity, in terms of new products and promotion. Its consumer-friendly Cobra Lower Cal has the potential to attract non-beer drinkers to the category. Cobra also has its sights on the draught beer market, launching a striking font last month that will undoubtedly contribute to its success in this part of the market.

In terms of draught beer, Coors has recently unveiled a new innovation that, if the previous success of “cold” variants is anything to go by, should do wonders for the brand. Coors Sub Zero, billed as the world’s coldest draught beer, is served at minus 2.5ºC, which should go far in satiating consumers’ need for ever-colder lager. The technology, made up of over 50 patents, results in a beer served with soft ice crystals. The pour has all the required theatre, with a specially-made glass rotating on a turntable throughout the automated process.

Soft drinks have certainly become healthier in recent years as consumers look for an alternative to the high sugar content and E-numbers of traditional soft drinks. Innocent was one of the first companies to spot the gap in the market when it launched its Fresh Fruit Smoothies in 1999 under the strap line “100% healthy and delicious”. The smoothies proved such a hit that the company branched out and launched a whole range of vitality-giving products including “thickies” (smoothies with an extra dollop of bio yoghurt), juicy waters for those who like a lighter, more refreshing drink, and new super smoothies, which are designed to sort out life’s aches and pains.

Feeling fruity
More recently, so-called “superfoods” such as pomegranate and blueberry have inspired a new generation of soft drinks. Hailed as the “new cranberry juice” in the cocktail world, Pomegreat styles itself as “the finest quality pomegranate juice with a special blend of fruit extracts and vitamins” and is free from artificial colourings, sweeteners and preservatives. To add to its health credentials, the drink is endorsed by cholesterol charity, Heart UK. A spokesperson for Pomegreat says, “With more polyphenol antioxidants than red wine, green tea, blueberry juice, cranberry juice and orange juice, the juice from pomegranates is one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants”. The firm’s latest product, Pomegreat & Blueberry, goes one step further and claims to help consumers to fight free radicals, combat wrinkles, slow the ageing process and boost their brain power. 

Energy tonics have also become big news since Firefly launched its “healthy drinks that work” in 2003. The firm wanted to create a range of drinks that would help boost consumers’ energy levels while steering clear of the sugar and artificial colourings usually associated with this kind of drink. Firefly’s successful recipe, based on the advice of herbalists Michael McIntyre and Andrew Chevallier, has allowed the company to grow its presence in 23 countries around the world.

In the mix

But it is not just the juice market that has benefited from consumers’ growing health concerns.  After four years marketing gin and rebranding Plymouth Gin, Charles Rolls saw the need for quality mixers to serve alongside premium spirits. Tired of standard mixers spoiling the cleanness of cocktails, Rolls launched Fever-Tree Tonic Water and Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon made from carbonated water flavoured with fruit extracts, sugar and quinine. The firm has recently brought out Fever-Tree Premium Ginger Ale and aims to expand its range. Originally stocked by upmarket retailers such as Selfridges and Harrods as well as a few top on-trade venues such as Hakkasan, the brand, which only launched last year, sold four times its target before Christmas.

Unlike the branded wine scene in the UK, where more often than not the place for new product launches seems to be the off-trade, spirits producers tend to focus their initial efforts in bars and clubs. This, of course, makes quantifiable data harder to obtain and spotting the movers and shakers in the category is far more a case of keeping your eyes open and talking to the staff on the frontline. Fortunately, with a little help from our rather extensive contacts book we are perfectly placed to do just that.

The white stuff
To start with the most popular category for new brands, vodka, such is the plethora of new brands that they are jostling for space on the back bar. Undoubtedly the most sought after level these days is the premium and super-premium where, naturally, most of the margin lies. But it is also the most ruthless arena where only the strong survive. One of these is Svedka, from Spirits Marque One, a quality product whose innovative and eye-catching marketing are winning it several friends in the bartending community. Another is Heavy Water, a US-based brand that is winning fans for its quality and masculine packaging. The beautifully packaged Pinky – a brand dismissed by some as gimmicky – could well succeed in the growing by-the-bottle sector, particularly if a recent association with Vivienne Westwood gives it a high profile fashionista boost. Another design stunner, Wyborowa Single Estate, in its Frank Gehry bottle, continues to find influential fans, such as Dre Masso of the Worldwide Cocktail Club. “Despite being launched last year, this has been largely ignored,” he says. “But it is a fantastic vodka. It’s handcrafted and made with the same care as a top wine.”

Other categories gaining favour with the NPD crowd are gin and rum. In the former, brands such as Martin Miller’s and Hendrick’s have become firm favourites with consumers and industry alike. While Whitley Neill Gin, a relative newcomer to the category, is making some serious noise with listings in Milk & Honey, Crazy Bear and Loungelover in the on-trade and Harvey Nichols and Berry Bros & Rudd in the off-trade.

On the rum scene the big news is Elements Eight, a totally new proposition devised by Carl Stephenson and Andreas Redlefsen, both previously of J Wray & Nephew. The product range consists of a versatile, high quality white rum and an easy drinking golden rum and importantly it does away with the usual stuffiness surrounding the category by dressing them in seriously desirable bottles.

Latino lovers
Outside of these three categories, Tequila seems to be taking off, not least with the boost given by the huge success story of specialist tequila bar Green & Red bar in London. At the top end Petron is causing a buzz, as is Arette Tequila from a family-owned distillery discovered by the Noble Trading Company. Sagatiba Cachaça is also making the most of the Latin America chic at the moment, positioning itself firmly in the Caipirinha camp. There’s also isaké, the quirky yet accessible sake brand (served in the Fat Duck, amongst others). While Opal Nera’s unusual approach to marketing is
getting it noticed in the sambuca category.

Finally, as the search for innovation in spirits intensifies some unique stand-alone products are emerging. One of these is a brand new proposition from Halewood International in the form of Café Kiss, an iced cappuccino with a splash of vodka, which has test marketed very positively, according to Richard Clark, head of marketing. “The response to Café Kiss has been tremendous. It is seen as genuinely innovative in the drinks category.”

You could say the very nature of the wine category is emerging. It is beginning to develop a powerful branded base to its business, shedding its private label past and growing a new skin using innovative marketing playing on varietal recognition and regional or countrywide cues. The handful of names mentioned below are either those wines we feel are cleverly tapping into consumer trends, taking a totally different and innovative tack, or they are simply products in the hands of UK agents or companies who know the market so well, that if they think their product will succeed, it almost certainly will.

For example, an interview printed in last month’s issue of the drink business revealed Constellation s’ intention to focus on continental Europe, so expect this massive business to begin pushing brands from the Old World over the course of this year and the next. At the moment however, Constellation-owned brand Ravenswood is definitely emerging. Although not new, it is, in the words of Constellation Europe’s CEO, Jon Moramarco, “underdeveloped” in the UK market. It is also a wine with clever and striking packaging, and belongs to a category, California, that is experiencing impressive growth in the off-trade.

Around the world
Spain is another country currently doing well in the UK market, but with little in the way of mainstream and modern brands. Perhaps Thierry’s El Prado will change that – it was only launched seven months ago and is already the 13th largest Spanish seller in the UK off-trade.

South Africa on the other hand already has a handful of wines with definite appeal at the volume end of the trade, but also a few that are really beginning to emerge. Namaqua is attempting to shake off its bag-in-box past with a range of bottled versions. Simon Halliday, managing director for Raisin Social, UK agents for the brand, believes, “During 2006 we estimate total sales will reach 850,000 cases, and we should easily break 1m cases MAT early next year.”

Another fast-emerging South African name is BrandPhoenix’s FirstCape, while one of the most original emerging brands this year is also from South Africa: Orbital’s Stormhoek. As reported in the January and March issues of db, the blogger-friendly product is gaining listings on the back of its appeal among internet users.

Sauvignon strikes out

As for varieties, Sauvignon Blanc has emerged as a serious seller in the UK, but brands from various countries growing this variety are still emerging. New Zealand’s offerings have led the way, although Constellation’s Nobilo has yet to catch the consumer’s imagination like Montana or Villa Maria. French Connection is certainly an emerging brand for both France and Sauvignon Blanc.

But what about other French brands? Rennaissance was recently repackaged in a distinctive style and UK agent BrandPhoenix predicts sales of 300-350,000 cases by the end of 2006, while Domaines Paul Mas is making waves with its Arrogant Frog and Hidden Hill brands. Perhaps we could also class Lacheteau’s Kiwi Cuvée as an emerging brand – although it seems to have generated more press for its controversial name than actual listings and subsequent sales. But finally, a while back, Vinival, now owned by Les Grands Chais de France, was working on the La Loire brand. What has happened to this?

Riesling to the occasion

Riesling, it is said, is undergoing a revival, and although it is from a fairly small base, many hope the World Cup in Germany will have an influence on this variety’s popularity. Presently, Riesling from Australia’s Eden or Clare Valleys seems to be developing a following and a number of brands producing these wines are emerging from the latter region. Marlborough Rieslings too are gaining ground. Fairleigh Estate is one to watch, while Devil’s Rock has added to its German Riesling with a new “Private Selection,” incorporating different styles of this grape variety from around the world.

In the pink
Lastly, rosé. It seems everyone is having a go at this growing category now that UK supermarkets are giving rosé its own shelf space. From South Africa, pink Pinotage seems to be gaining in popularity with Thierry’s Cape Grace Pinotage rosé leading the way. Australia’s Shiraz rosés would also like a slice of the action previously dominated by California’s blush wines and France’s inexpensive rosé d’Anjou. NXG Stockmans Post is apparently doing well through Tesco with its deep-coloured rosé while Spain also produces fantastic rosé. Oddbins’ Capçanes Rosat from Montsant certainly deserves to do well based on its colour and packaging alone. More mainstream is El Prado’s Tempranillo rosé, found in the major multiples.

This has been a brief round-up, but there are so many more drinks out there and new trends poised to emerge. We’ll be reassessing the movers and shakers with our Trends Report at the end of the year. But meanwhile, if you disagree with our predictions or simply want to make a few of your own, we’re always keen to hear your suggestions.

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Magners has undoubtedly been one the major drivers of recent growth in the cider market, and has done much to help cider’s return to popularity. The brand was only launched nationally earlier this year, and now accounts for 71.4% of packaged cider sales in the UK. Since its London launch in March 2005, the brand has become the city’s number one packaged long alcoholic drink, with a 16.4% share according to ACNielsen.

Another company that has been investing heavily in the cider market is the Gaymer Cider Company, with an investment earlier in the year of £24 million in support of new products and existing brands. With Constellation behind it, Gaymer launched a number of products into the premium cider market, including an Orchard Reserve, made from the fruit of a single orchard. Most recently, two new single-orchard varieties have been launched, called Stonesbrook and Newton’s Vale. These further reinforce the similarities between premium cider and wine, with food pairing, as well as the use of provenance and vintages being central to the marketing of these products.

The real upshot of this activity from big cider companies is that the way has been paved for other smaller producers. Premium cider producer Merrydown, for example, has experienced great success in the supermarket arena. Somerset producer Thatchers has put significant investment behind rebranding and consumer campaigns in support of its brands. With sales having reached a million pints a year, single-varietal Thatchers Katy is a brand to keep an eye on.

© db July 2006

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