Rum is probably clipping at its heels, but gin continues to be king, with sales inside the UK totaling £2.5 billion in 2019. but that is the sector’s largest and high-quality-selling gin manufacturers?
Sales of gin in the UK totalled £2.5 billion in the year to June 2019, according to the latest stats from the WSTA, with more than 82 million bottles sold. Gin exports also reached £672 million, HMRC figures show, demonstrating a continued thirst for gin worldwide, with the UK the world’s biggest exporter of the spirit.
According to the WSTA, over 80 million bottles of gin were sold in the UK in the 12 months to June 2019, with the spirit performing particularly well in the on-trade. In this channel, sales grew 51% by volume and 52% by value to total over £1.5 billion in 2019. In the off-trade sales totalled £961m, up 34% on last year.
Speaking in November following the release of its latest market report, Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, said gin was “still king” in terms of growth and innovation, but that there were signs that consumers were starting to become more adventurous, with an opportunity for rum emerging.
However, the Covid-19 crisis has thrown uncertainty into the market, with the IWSR forecasting a significant slow-down in growth of spirits, including gin. Consumers are now beginning to show signs of “gin fatigue”, say, analysts, who forecast that while whisky and gin will likely rebound the fastest to pre-COVID-19 levels, it could take up to four years for sales to fully recover.
Mark Meek, chief executive of IWSR, said that bar and restaurant closures will have a lasting effect on the alcohol industry worse than “anything we’ve experienced before”.
“Even the downturn following the 2008 financial crisis was less severe than what we are seeing now,” he said. “In many ways, 2019 was perhaps the last ‘normal’ year for the drinks industry.”
With this in mind, we have rounded up the world’s best-selling international gin brands – those that have shifted more than a million cases in 2019.
The quirky cucumber-garnished gin brand Hendrick’s maintained its spot in the top ranking, reporting solid growth of 7.7% for the brand in 2019. The Scottish spirits group reported a turnover of £1.3 billion over the course of 2018, according to the company’s latest financial results – a rise of 11.6% – thanks to the success of its core brands.
The company posted a 4% post-tax profit growth to £260 million, which was nevertheless down in 2017. This was attributed to the opening of a new Hendrick’s Gin distillery, a new Arete packaging centre for its premium portfolio, and the company’s first bottling operation in India. The £13m Hendrick’s ‘gin palace’, which opened in October, comes complete with a palm house, two hothouses, two still houses, a laboratory, flavour library, lecture theatre and gin bar.
Still, while investment in 2018 might have dented profits, it didn’t dent its brand strength, with 2019 proving a solid year for Hendrick’s. Not a brand to stand still, this year the team continued to live up to its eccentric nature, launching a limited edition ‘Lunar’ gin in the UK. Described as “distinctly floral with a delicate spicy finish”, the small-batch gin is the second release from master distiller Leslie Gracie’s Cabinet of Curiosities at the brand’s Gin Palace in Scotland and follows the launch of Gracie’s Midsummer Solstice Gin in 2019. According to brand owner William Grant & Sons, the gin was conceived “beneath the celestial light of the moon and yields an alluring complexity and a delightful warmth, which is best suited to refreshing sundowners and night-sipping”.
The biggest-selling gin brand in Spain, Larios is owned by drinks behemoth Beam Suntory and has stormed a path in recent years. Since 2016 it has doubled its volume sales from 1.2m to the 2.48m that it shifts globally today.
Its range includes Larios Dry Gin – a 37.5% abv London Dry Gin made with Mediterranean orange and lemon botanicals, and Larios 12 – a 40% abv gin featuring twelve botanicals in a blend of five distillations, enhanced with orange blossom. Jumping on the pink gin trend, in 2016 the brand launched Larios Rosé, a gin infused with strawberries.
Last year the brand launched a gin flavoured with four distillations of wild juniper exclusively for the travel retail market at stores operated by travel retailer Dufry in Spain. Called Larios Provenzal, the gin uses a base of corn in its distillation “to give the liquid a smoother profile”, which is then flavoured with a selection of fresh Mediterranean citrus fruits.
According to the WSTA, sales of flavoured gin in the UK contributed more than half of all the growth in the gin category during 2018, with sales totalling £165 million, up by 751% compared to the year before. Despite pink gins only making up one-fifth of total sales, the WSTA said in December 2018 that “flavoured gin has driven over half of all growth in gin in the last recorded 12 months”. Almost three-quarters of the growth in flavoured gin can be attributed to pink gin alone.
Earlier this year Beam Suntory reported a 6.5% revenue growth for 2019, acknowledging that it had been impacted by EU-US tariffs on American whiskey, and a boycott of Japanese products in South Korea. “Total sales grew 6.5%, benefiting from our premiumisation actions across brands and markets,” said Albert Baladi, CEO of Beam Suntory. Baladi was appointed CEO in 2019, having joined the company eight years prior, most recently serving as Chief Operating Officer. He added: “Sales grew at a mid-single-digit rate in the United States, at a high-single-digit rate in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and at double-digit rates in China, India, Southeast Asia, Russia and Mexico.”
Beam Suntory’s gin portfolio also includes London-based gin distiller Siupsmith, which it acquired in December 2016, and Japanese gin Roku.
Pernod Ricard reported a successful year in 2019, with sales increasing by 6% to €9.2 billion according to its annual report. Its Seagram’s band was notable for its continued growth in Europe, in particular Spain and Eastern Europe, as well as sub-Saharan Africa, where Pernod Ricard reported an overall 16% growth in sales across all of its brands, driven by Jameson, Chivas, Ballantine’s and Seagram’s.
The Seagram’s brand has walked a long and winding road since 1857, when its first distillery was founded in Ontario, Canada. Joseph E. Seagram became a partner in 1869 and the sole owner of the company in 1883, with the Seagram’s brand first introduced in the US in 1939. Having grown into one of the world’s largest conglomerates, the company’s alcoholic drinks business was sold in 2000, with the Seagram’s brand today owned by French drinks giant, Pernod Ricard.
In addition to its classic Extra Dry expression, launched in 1939, Seagram’s has also had a number of flavoured variants in its portfolio, including pineapple, peach, red berry, melon, lime and apple.
N.B: While Seagram’s is one of the world’s biggest gin brands, Pernod Ricard does not class it as a “strategic international brand”, and therefore its sales volumes are not routinely disclosed.
Also owned by Pernod Ricard, Beefeater shifted 3.2m cases in 2019, making it Pernod’s biggest gin brand and one of its best-selling brands. In 2019, Beefeater reported a 12% increase in organic sales growth, joining the company’s other top growth brands which include Royal Salute (17%), The Glenlivet (15%) and Malibu (13%). Overall, Beefeater was credited with “very strong growth” across all regions, “in particular in UK, Latin America and Africa Middle-East” over the course of 2019, while “triple-digit” sales growth of the brand was reported in Brazil.
In terms of its portfolio, In 2018, the brand launched Beefeater Pink, a gin expression infused with strawberries and targeted at “young millennials”, taking Beefeater London Dry gin as a base. It was the first innovation to be launched by The Gin Hub, a stand-alone entity that brings together three of Pernod Ricard’s gin brands: Beefeater, Plymouth, Seagram’s and Monkey 47, under one roof. Beefeater Pink was followed by the launch of Beefeater Blood Orange in 2019, underlining once more a trend for flavoured gins.
As for other gin brands making headway within Pernod’s portfolio, last year Pernod bought super-premium Italian gin brand Malfy for an undisclosed sum. The Malfy Gin range consists of four variants: Originale, Con Limone, Con Arancia and Gin Rosa, which are made using lemons from Amalfi, Sicilian blood oranges and pink grapefruits.
Tanqueray, Diageo’s second-biggest gin brand, saw its organic net sales grow by 19% in 2019, while volume cases increased by 12.5% to 4.5m. This was the third biggest organic increase of all of Diageo’s international brands (behind Don Julio Tequila and Shui Jing Fang Baijiu), making Tanqueray one of its most powerful brands and reaffirming the continued pull of gin worldwide.
While the UK is still one of Tanquerary’s biggest markets, as with Beefeateril Tanqueray has also seen its sales rise in Brazil. Diageo reported that consumer spends on the gin category in this market has grown over 100% each year over the past five years, with growth being driven by the Tanqueray brand. Speaking during a media briefing in July 2019, Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes said that while gin may be peaking in the UK, there was plenty of opportunity for international expansion, citing both Brazil and Mexico as emerging markets.
The Tanqueray portfolio includes the original Tanqueray London Dry Gin, and Tanqueray No. TEN, the latter differentiated by its more complex combination of botanicals. It also includes a number of variants including Tanqueray Rangpur, which was first launched in 2006 and is made with Rangpur limes, and Tanqueray Malacca, a spiced gin aimed at the on-trade. Honing in on the flavoured gin trend, Diageo also launched Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla in 2018, a gin made with oranges from Seville. The gin is made with oranges as well as four other botanicals and is described as having a “tangy, sweet flavour, with notes of tangerine, juniper and coriander”.
Owned by Bacardi, Bombay Sapphire is the world’s second biggest-selling gin, shifting 4.6m cases in 2019. And it’s been a busy year for the brand, with several product launches this year alone.
In January the brand expanded its range of gins with the launch of four liqueurs, designed to give its Bombay Sapphire G&T a “floral or fruit boost”. They come in four flavours – rose, hibiscus, strawberry and raspberry – and are designed to add a pink hue to a mixed drink, which it said would cater to demand “growing demand for personalisation”.
This was followed by the launch of a new berry-flavoured gin to its Bombay Sapphire line, Bombay Bramble gin, which is made with real blackberries and raspberries and is said to “capture the essence of fresh blackberries and raspberries harvested at their ripest moment”. It was launched in response to consumer demand for a “premium product created with real ingredients, natural flavours and colours”, and was marketed in opposition to some brands that might use concentrates, additional sugars and additives to produce flavoured gins.
Simultaneously, the brand also launched its first RTD Bombay Sapphire and Tonic in a can, currently available in UK supermarkets. The company said its master of botanicals, Ivano Tonutti, and master distiller, Dr Anne Brock, had spent time refining a formula that balanced the demand for a product for the sake of convenience without “foregoing quality”.
However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Bombay Sapphire. Last year Bacardi faced a lawsuit in Florida over its use of the botanical ‘grain of paradise’, which cannot be used in the state to flavour spirits over alleged health concerns. The case was dismissed in January of this year.
Still the world’s biggest gin by some measure, Gordon’s sold 6.7m cases in 2019, achieving a 3% uplift, and reporting total sales of £1.2 billion, with Europe its principal market.
Overall, Diageo reported total net sales of £12.9 billion in 2019 across all of its brands – an increase of 5.8% – and an operating profit of £4 billion – an increase of 9.5%.
Net sales of Diageo’s gin brands rose 22% in the year to June 30 across all regions (except North America). In particular, Diageo’s ready to drink category grew 17%, driven by Gordon’s premix range, with Gordon’s reporting “double-digit” growth driven in part by its flavoured “innovation variants”, namely Gordon’s Pink. The pink-hued variant was launched in 2017 and is flavoured with raspberry, strawberry and redcurrant. This year, it launched a ready-to-drink slimline version of its Gordon’s Pink G&T in a can.
As for its history, Gordon’s gin heritage runs deep. Its founder Alexander Gordon opened the distillery in 1769, 18 years after Chiswick-based artist William Hogarth published his famous Gin Lane print depicting London as a gin-soaked den of depravity. With Gordon’s, Alexander sought to lift the spirit’s reputation from the gutter into the dining rooms of the elite with a juniper-forward expression – a challenge you could certainly say it has met.
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