Fever-Tree sets sights on Chinese market

With first half year sales rising 77%, London-based tonic water producer, Fever-Tree, has revealed that it plans to tap into the Chinese market “within months,” following the success of an earlier deal with Hong Kong fine wine importer Summergate to distribute its products in the local market.

“We anticipate launching within the next few months and are very much looking forward to bringing some innovation and focus to the mixer category in China,” Andy Gaunt, Fever-Tree Asia Pacific brand director, told dbHK.

The drinks mixer brand, known for its exotic ingredients such as ginger from the Ivory Coast and India, has recently seen impressive sales growth riding on the back of the global gin and tonic boom. Its sales in the first half of the year grew by 77% to US$32.8 million.

The company signed an exclusive distribution deal with Summergate in January this year, primarily focusing on on-trade sales. Without revealing specific sales figures in Hong Kong, the executive said the company is “very happy” with the growth of distribution and share growth across Hong Kong and Macau, thanks to its strategy to incorporate more mixers designed for dark and aged spirits, which accounted for 80% of premium spirits consumed in Hong Kong.

“Our sales mix has historically leaned towards our tonic business, it is, after all, where we started, but we are seeing a balancing in our portfolio as we address the opportunities in promoting better choices for mixers with dark spirits  such as soda, ginger ale, cola and ginger beer,” he explained.

The growing popularity of crisp, refreshing gin and tonics in Hong Kong, with backings from specialist bars like ‘Ping Pong,’ also helped drive its growth.  

“Without a doubt there is continued growth and interest in gin here in Hong Kong as we see across the world. The gin and tonic is booming thanks to the increased availability and range of gin, and importantly of high quality tonic waters that offer a range of tastes,” Gaunt commented.

Its current range encompasses varying flavours from the more traditional dry bitter hit of ‘Indian Tonic’ or the ‘Naturally Light Tonic’, which is 60% lower in calories, to the soft floral flavours of ‘Mediterranean Tonic’, or the zesty sweetness of ‘Elderflower Tonic’ and the bitter citrus of the ‘Sicilian Lemon Tonic’.

While the gin and tonic boom is evident in cities like Hong Kong and Singapore, driving gin sales is arguably more challenging in mainland China, given that dark spirits take up about 90% of the market share, with gin accounting for less than 3% of premium imported spirits consumed in the market.

Leveraging on its wide range of products that cater to “all mixing opportunities,” the company sees growth opportunity in Chinese consumers’ growing interest in longer, refreshing drinks based on whiskies and Cognacs, according to the brand director.

Speaking about other Asian markets, Gaunt pointed out that Taipei has been “one of more innovative and forward thinking cocktail scenes” in the last decade, and as these new drink trends reach the new generation of drinkers, “we’ll no doubt see a shift in consumption trends,” he predicated.

Having one of the richest cocktail cultures in the world, Japan will see younger bartenders with a more international perspective than the previous generation start to come of age, he continued.

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