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Davies: Lockdown has boosted innovation in craft spirits

The new head of artisan spirits business Ten Locks, which was established by UK drinks supplier Kingsland Drinks has said the UK lockdown has resulted in “incredible creativity” across artisanal sprits, and the provides a big opportunity post-Covid.

Speaking to The Drinks Business recently, new boss Becky Davies (above) argued that one of the upsides of the UK lockdown lay in the incredible creativity seen by artisinal spirit producers.

“We are just starting to see the fruits of that now,” she said. “It (lockdown) gave some smaller producers the chance to pause and think about how they could use the equipment that they had invested in to make different liquids and products, so I am prepared to see some amazing innovation come out of this very strange year. The innovation we are seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg.”

The new Manchester-based company, which was set up in September, is set to target both the premium off-trade and on-trade which Davies says isthe best approach for the current climate”.

“We are certainly not blind to the fact that the on-trade is suffering, and we will do our best to support and help our customers in any way we can. But there is still a huge demand for quality, premium products, and now more than ever we need to ensure that our offering not only demonstrates authenticity and purpose but makes commercial sense too; as such we’ve built a portfolio that seeks to add genuine value to our customers,” she explained.

“Now, more than ever, it’s important for brands to diversify and ensure their products are available in multiple sectors, and -on the flipside – it’s important that the on and off trade are both offering a range of products to differentiate themselves, by looking at brands that are both premium and authentic,” she tells db. “I’ve worked for a long time in the on trade, so I know what customers are looking for within this sector.”

She argues that post-Covid, the off trade is likely to present a different picture.

“Due to the on-trade closures this year, some off-trade retailers have seen an upsurge in customers demanding premium, quality products, so in many ways this situation has demonstrated to them that premium brands have huge potential and illustrated how consumers were spending money in the on trade.”

“Consumers have been investing in premium, authentic brands to enjoy at home and this presents a clear opportunity – both parts of the industry (on- and off-trade) need to stock brands with a clear point of difference, and that’s what Ten Locks will seek to champion.”

The team are eying up around 20 independently-owned brand from regional products to drinks from further afield with “an authentic story to tell” which appeals to younger consumers who want to know more about the brands they buy into.

“Our main goal is to develop a portfolio of purpose-led brands than appeal to the ever-growing conscious consumer.  The brands will be striving for positive change whether that be societal, environmental or economic,” Davies notes, adding “It feels good to be helping smaller producers in such  turbulent times, and we believe consumers want to do this too.”


In terms of trends, Davies says having become the go-to category “somewhat lost control and become slightly saturated with a very mixed bag when it comes to quality. Consumers have become wise to this trend of churning out low quality, high sugar products and I believe they will soon return to the trusted London Dry Gins and gins that are about quality ingredients and utilising quality botanicals, increasing the demand for authenticity,” she noted.

“On the flip side, there is some great innovation happening in gin still, including pink gin, but it’s hard for consumers to cut through the noise and understand which offer quality and which don’t.

I believe these drinkers will move to new ‘flavoured’ categories and others will revert back to ‘traditional’ gin.”

Rum is showing currently showing the same exponential growth and despite there being some  “wonderful products available demonstrating quality and innovation”, she says there is a risk of it suffering the same fate, with many producers adding in flavours to match its gin liqueur competitors. “But the rum industry is working hard to ensure transparency so at least the consumer will understand what they are drinking,” she adds.

Other tipped for success include Tequila, was been little understood by consumers until now, RTDs and the aperitif market, which is riding the success of popular brands such as Aperol. “This juggernaut has allowed other authentic brands to enter the UK market giving consumers a choice,” she says.

She argues that artisan and craft brands will benefit in the short term as they are small enough and agile enough to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances in an uncertain climate, and consumers actively want to support local brands and smaller businesses over big, well-known producers, while longer term growth is “inevitable” as people continue to buy into brands with a true story and a point of difference. The challenge she added will be for smaller players to maintain the same values as they grow. “When they do this well it’s nice to see the success stories and those people personally benefit,” she said.

The challenge she added will be for smaller players to maintain the same values as they grow. “When they do this well it’s nice to see the success stories and those people personally benefit,” she said.


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