Kopparberg: Flavoured gin growth follows pattern that made cider brand famous

The recent surge in the popularity of fruity gins feels familiar to Rob Salvesen, head of marketing at cider brand Kopparberg.

Kopparberg Premium GinSwedish cider brand Kopparberg launched two spirits last month, inspired by its range of fruity ciders; a strawberry and lime-flavoured pink gin, and a purple-hued mixed fruit expression.

Speaking to db last week, the producer’s head of marketing said Salvesen said: “I have a theory we are seeing as much the rise of fruit gin as we were with fruit cider. About 10 years ago there were loads of ciders on the market, and now, after the first wave of that boom came with craft spirits, you’re seeing a similar thing with gin.”

“A lot of traditional gin producers will probably look at the fruit gin category and say ‘that’s not real gin’, but the reality is if you’re not experimenting you’re gonna be left behind.”

Kopparberg became a household name in the UK thanks to its well-timed export strategy, executed by owner and CEO Peter Bronsman.

The Kopparberg brewery, based in the town of the same name in central Sweden, began operating in 1882, but it wasn’t until Bronsman bought the business in 1994 that it became well known internationally. Kopparberg targeted Greece as its first export region in 1996, hoping to catch the attention of Swedish tourists who would then buy the cider when they returned home. 10 years later, Bronsman set up Cider of Sweden Ltd to distribute in the UK, where the cider category was experiencing a return to popularity. More than one billion pints of cider were sold in the UK between 2006 and 2007.

Despite being a “fairly new entrant” to the cider category, sales of fruity varieties have grown by more than 330% in the past 12 years, currently accounting for just over a quarter (27%) of the whole sector’s sales, according to the 2018 Westons Cider report. Kopparberg’s success has largely come from this growth, and its the best-selling fruit cider in both the UK’s on and off-trade.

Cider of Sweden, the UK-based distributor of Kopparberg, generated an operating profit of just under £4.1 million in the 12 months to December 2017, down slightly from the previous year. However, sales rose 7% in the same period to reach almost £150 million, according to Companies House. Cider of Sweden’s directors are Bronsman, chairman Carl Eric-Berg, and Barry Connolly, the Irish founder of brand distributor Richmond Marketing.

In results filed last October, Bronsman said that the company “faces strong competition in the marketplace and if it fails to compete successfully, market share and profitability may decline.”

However, he also noted its current profitability. Salvesen also told db that there is “absolutely no plan to wind down production” of the cider range.

Instead, the marketing boss said Kopparberg can “basically access the gin category with our well based taste credentials.”

According to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), sales of gin in the UK alone reached almost £2 billion in the year ending 3 November 2018. UK gin sales by volume total 66.3 million bottles, up 41% on 2017, and £1.93 billion by value, up 53%.

Flavoured gins have contributed more than half of all the growth in the category in the past year, with sales netting £165 million, up an impressive 751% on the same period last year. Salvesen told db he believes Kopparberg can use its position in the cider market to take advantage of this growth.

“Everything in our research says fruit cider will continue to dominate the early drinking occasions,” he said, “but also having a pink gin extends that occasion further.”

“With any occasion we want to be a part of that.”

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