Craft spirits gain more space at Asda

8th May, 2017 by Arabella Mileham

Asda has brought in around 50 new spirits lines, concentrating on craft and regional gins, and adding in more premium tiers to its tequilas, vermouths and rye whisky ranges.

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Asda slashes wine range by 25% and boost premium lines

Asda hops on craft beer trend

BWS category director Drew Tiffin said the dynamic in spirits emulated that in the beers aisles, where the focus was on the more premium sector and craft side, and this was the focus of the revamped range.

Nowhere has the growth been more marked than in the gin category, which smashed the £1 billion mark for the first time for sales in the UK last year. As a result, the retailer has almost doubled its range of craft gins, with around 13 new premium gins coming in to give a total of 22 premium gins. Around 13 of these have benefitted from wider distribution, with a further 9 gins going into regional distribution, and five more whose introduction will be staggered before Christmas. This will increase the premium gin fixture from one shelf to three.

“We felt we were always playing catch up and wanted to step that up,” Asda’s spirit buying manager Charlie Craven told db.

Regional gins were the key to expanding the category, he said, with Scottish gins outperforming the market, and growth coming in key areas such as Manchester, London and Bristol.

“For us, the key is keeping it interesting – gin customers always looking for new things, and if local lines work well, we will have move them further,” Craven added. “We are getting better at our systems and where to put the range.”

As with the beer and wine aisles, the retailer had consolidated and “edited” the range over the last year to remove duplication and build space for choice. Last year the spirits team stripped out around 120 lines, creating space for the new additions. The spirits range now comprises around 530 skus, down from more than 600 a year ago.

Whisky and rye

The retailer is also boosting the space allocated for specialist whiskies and bourbon, going from three shelves to a bay by removing some blended Scotch lines. It is concentrating on more premium bourbons as well as adding three US rye whiskies, with plans to expand the range further with Canada and international rye whiskies in due course.

“We wanted to have a good, better, best tiering in the rye whiskies, so have added an affordable Jim Beam rye whisky, one from Bulleit, and a super premium Jack Daniels single barrel rye. We know if we want to get people to try them, we need strong brands that they recognise and trust,” he said.

Asda is also hoping to tap into the growth of vermouth and tequila “which is going bonkers in the US”, according to BWS category manager Drew Tiffin. “The market for tequila is fairly polarising, but we’ve seen in the States that they’ve been able to overcome that trend.”

Craven said tequila as a drink had sometimes been regarded as a “punishment” and the team was keen to focus on the quality on offer, which was seeing a strong take-up in the on-trade, where bars were increasingly offering at least two tequila cocktails.

“If you don’t extend the range significantly to get cut-through, it will get lost, so we wanted to do a big splash, and to see what the opportunities are for Mezcal. The key is to educate the customer,” he explained.

The new range includes a El Jimador Blanco Tequila and a super-premium Reposado Herraduar Tequila (RRP: £39), as well as two mid-priced Patrons. New vermouths include two Martinis, a Riserva Speciale Ambrato, and a Riserva Speciale Rubino (both RRP: £16.00) as well as an Italian vermouth, Antica Formula (RRP: £14.00).

The move comes as the retailer slashes around 25% of its wine range to “rebalance” the portfolio and add in more higher-priced and premium wines, and boosted it range of craft beers. 

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