In focus: The latest trends in gin

Pink trend

Beefeater’s London underground installation.

The three essential components are: being “super visual”, by creating eye-catching packaging, cocktails and garnishes; ensuring the brand remains “playful”; and using natural ingredients.

But why pink specifically? “While each company makes their own decisions, there is definitely a pink trend, which may have actually originated outside of the gin category,” says Sampers, such as in rosé wine and pink cocktails. The term ‘millennial pink’, however derided, does nevertheless explain the focus on colour and shelf appeal. Coloured and pink gins are particularly popular in Spain, where, according to Sampers, they are frequently priced higher than clear London Dry-style alternatives. Spanish brands like Puerto de Indias, Rives, Siderit and Beam Suntory’s Larios all produce popular pink variants.

“In Spain the pink gin trend accounts for 40% of all value growth within the total gin category,” says Sampers, who reveals that one of the two main reasons behind the launch of Beefeater Pink “was to take advantage of fast-growing opportunities in Spain”. The other was to increase the appeal of the traditional, established Beefeater brand to younger consumers.

Joanna Segesser, Tanqueray’s global marketing manager, says the brand’s new gins were designed to satisfy demand from bartenders and consumers alike.

She adds: “Interest in gin is continuing to grow, with bartenders and gin lovers increasingly looking for new innovative flavours to try – we wanted to create a gin that meets that demand. We are seeing consumers desiring new flavours while at the same time being more discerning in the gins they are choosing.”

So how have these recent big-brand launches helped shape the gin market, and what do they mean for producers already occupying the field? Large gin brands such as Diageo-owned Gordon’s and Tanqueray, and Pernod Ricard’s Beefeater benefit from a bigger budget, a better route to market and larger production facilities.

This year, Gordon’s launched a TV advert dedicated to its pink gin, while Beefeater, in partnership with design agency Impero, installed strawberry-scented posters in Oxford Circus Underground Station in London to launch its pink-hued expression. Tanqueray launched its Flor de Sevilla in Spain in partnership with pop duo Los Del Rio (of Macarena fame), while in the UK it installed an ‘orange grove’ in Spanish chef José Pizarro’s eponymous restaurant in Bermondsey in central London.

Nicholas Cook of the Gin Guild stresses that despite market growth, the big brands have retained their pulling power.

“The market has grown but the ratio of larger distillers’ products to smaller distillers’ in the gin category is probably still in the 80:20 bracket. The cake is bigger but some of the slices taste distinctively different,” he said.

There are, however, advantages to being small. Tom Warner of Warner Edwards, which produces a pink rhubarb gin and has a limited-edition botanical garden range, says the size of his operation allows for a certain degree of flexibility that the larger distillers don’t have.

“We do what it takes the big guys between 10 and 20 years to develop,” he says. “In some ways what they do is dictated by what mad idiots like us are doing. We have a lot more flexibility in that we can test something out by throwing it at the wall to see if it sticks.

“That said, we don’t have the distribution relationships that they have, meaning we have to fight tooth and nail and be inventive in terms of flavour and botanicals to stand out and earn our place on the shelf.”

José Pizarro with Tanqueray’s Flor de Sevilla.

Despite the distribution disadvantage, response to the big-brand launches has been overwhelmingly positive from the brands contacted by db.

Will Holt, co-founder of Pinkster Gin, which launched in 2013, believes that pink gin has gained prominence and legitimacy from the recent launches.

“Thanks to the marketing muscle of Gordon’s and Beefeater, pink gin is a sub-category in its own right now – and one that’s rocketing along very nicely indeed. For sure, this is benefitting us at Pinkster, with demand rising month by month as more outlets look for a premium option.”

New consumers, as Cook and Warner state, are being brought into the category via more fruit-driven variants and often move on to explore drier styles. “If you’re bringing new consumers to the category, it can only be a good thing,” adds Warner.

Mixer brands have also used the trends for colour and savoury styles to their advantage. Fever-Tree produces both a pink angostura-bark variant and a Mediterranean tonic flavoured with rosemary, while Fentimans also makes a pink grapefruit tonic water.

For Jen Draper, head of marketing at Franklin & Sons, the coloured and savoury trends have motivated the company “to keep innovating and looking into big, bold flavours that will complement a range of gins and brands.”

She adds: “Epicurean consumers are demanding more interesting flavours that bring out the natural botanicals of the gin.” The brand has launched a new range of four tonics including a Rosemary and Black Olive tonic; and a pink-hued Rhubarb and Hibiscus expression.

However, with all this innovation going on, James Shelbourne, founder and director of Silent Pool, stresses the need for quality to be maintained.

“There are some great products being launched, and it’s really important that the big guys continue to keep innovating. However, if we start getting really sweet, sticky, coloured stuff it will devalue the category. We saw it a bit in vodka – it destroys the market,” he says.

Cook of the Gin Guild believes there are already a number of producers whose products are undeserving of the name of gin, who are cashing in on the term “because it sells”.

“You’ll start to identify the brands that are all about sexy marketing but have little substance behind them,” he says. “I’ve even seen companies that don’t distil but cold compound. There’s nothing you can do as it’s still technically gin, but it is not made in the same way as those who do it properly.”

With so many newcomers joining an already saturated market, it is inevitable that some brands will cut corners to save money. Many producers in the industry are calling for more regulations and a clear set of guidelines that govern the production of the spirit.

James Wright, managing director of north Wales-based Aber Falls, believes more should be done to tackle the “growing grey area as to what actually constitutes gin. There’s a need for clear stipulations, and perhaps that’s a trend we’ll see coming through.”

In the absence of strict regulations and with larger brands encroaching on craft, how are distillers making themselves heard? One solution is to put provenance at the forefront of proceedings.

Aber Falls, according to Wright, aims to be one of the “keystones for promoting Wales and its produce”. The gin and soon-to-be whisky producer sources all of its malted barley from Wales and uses the water from the eponymous waterfall nearby in the production process. It is also working with fellow companies from north Wales such as successful salt producer Halen Môn, the source of the seasoning in its salted-toffee gin liqueur.

2 Responses to “In focus: The latest trends in gin”

  1. Julie Martineau says:

    Ungava gin (ref: http://ungava-gin.com/en/home/), which is quite yellow, changes colour when the tonic water is poured in: it turns a very light pink. According to my Process Engineer partner, the carbonic acid disolved in the tonic lowers the pH of the gin, turning its yellow components pink. It also makes for a delicious happy hour!

  2. We produce Rose Gold gin which is yellow but throws out pinkish hues when mixed with tonic. Naturally coloured with hibiscus and saffron.
    thestaffordshiregincompany.co.uk

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