Can pirates’ plonk become the next craft spirit?

Source… ‘thegrocer.co.uk’ 14 Jun 2018 | By Ash O’Mahony…

It’s time for rum to ditch the pirate image. After decades of ‘ahoy there’ puns and packaging that would tempt Captain Jack Sparrow, the spirit is going premium. Waitrose tipped rum to be the next big thing at the tail end of last year, and sales suggest it’s on to something. The retail market has shot up an impressive 7.9% in value over the past year on volumes up 5% [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 20 May 2018], suggesting that not only are prices rising, but people are buying more of the stuff. So what’s steering this ship?

Encouragingly, it’s the younger generation that is fueling this rum boom. Nearly 80% of 25- to 34-year-old spirit drinkers are partial to rum, according to a poll of over 1,400 consumers conducted exclusively for The Grocer by Harris Interactive. This compares with just half of the over-55 crowd (see below). These younger shoppers are prepared to go higher end than older generations. “We know that millennials are drinking less than their parents,” says Faith Holland, head of category at Captain Morgan. “As young people are drinking less, they are seeking higher quality in their purchases. We’re finding that customers are drinking less, but better.”

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The rise in younger drinkers is mostly down to changing perceptions. No longer a cheap and cheerful plonk, rum is increasingly being seen as a sophisticated option. “Similarly to the way in which gin has come a long way from being ‘mother’s ruin’, consumers are viewing rum in a different light,” says Lyme Bay Winery’s Fran Taylor.

Rum brands are unveiling more premium lines to cater for this new drinker. Lyme Bay Winery, for one, launched a premium Caribbean spiced Lugger Rum in May, and Don Papa unveiled a small batch Rare Cask in November last year. Despite the hefty £65 price tag, the majority of the 6,000 bottles had sold out by Christmas. The launch was so successful the brand is planning a second Rare Cask batch this November at Harvey Nichols (see innovations, below).

Retailers are taking note. Waitrose spirit buyer John Vine last year upped its range of premium rums, favouring those with a focus on their country of origin. “Our shoppers are interested in both the regional differences and individual flavour profiles of authentic rums,” he says.

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