Tag Archives: spirits

Rise of Premium vodka spritz RTDs

As the RTD trend continues, a number of premium vodka brands are launching their first canned products focussing on the spritz serve.

Spritz itself has become a malleable term in recent years. Once referring to a combination of soda or sparkling water to wine or vodka, it has more recently been adopted by brands such as Aperol for their popular soda water, prosecco and bitter aperitif serve. In the wake of its success over recent years, other brands, and indeed bars, have adopted the name for their own wine, water, and spirit serves.

In the US, the world’s leading RTD market, RTD innovation is picking up pace as consumers continue to demand lighter but flavourful serves like hard seltzers. Demand is especially growing for spirit-based RTDs in the US, which are expected to grow at a volume CAGR of 33% by 2025. Within this segment, vodka and tequila bases are dominant, together accounting for more than 50% of new spirit-based RTD launches between 2019 and the first half of 2021.

As sales of hard seltzers continue to show double-digit growth in the US, growth is picking up in other markets as well, as the hard seltzer category becomes more globally recognised. To capitalise on this trend, some of the largest vodka brands have chosen the ‘spritz’ name for their sparkling water, spirit, and fruit flavour combinations.

Ketel One was one of the first to offer an RTD spritz with the launch of its canned range of Botanical Vodka Spritzes in September 2020. They were aimed at variety of occasions – from moments of relaxation with family, to spending a safe and socially-distanced day at the pool or park, stated Bob Nolet, Ketel One’s master distiller.

The new raft of launches, led by brands including Cîroc, Grey Goose, and Svedka, have a similar aim; of providing guilt-free, portable, easy summer refreshment, as large-scale outdoor events return, and consumers look to make the most of their first summer of significantly reduced restrictions.

In a notable shift from what has gone before however, all of the new wave of products put flavour first, offering trending tropical, tea, and fruit combinations, still at a lower ABV. With them, brands are hoping to capitalise on the mood of cautious hedonism – alongside the ongoing health and wellness trends – that look to define the summer.

Diageo and brand partner Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, for example, have launched the brand’s first RTD line, Ciroc Vodka Spritz, as a permanent addition to the brand. The line offers four premium spritz flavours – Watermelon Kiwi, Sunset Citrus, Pineapple Passion and Colada.

Constellation Brands has launched a vodka and tea-based canned line under the Svedka brand. The Tea Spritz line is described as a spirit-based hard seltzer and combines real tea, sparkling water, and natural tropical fruit flavours, and includes three variants; Orange Mango, Pineapple Guava – both of which include turmeric – and Raspberry Kiwi.

Others will likely join in on this new twist on existing RTD trends, as more brands look to claim a part of the market unique from hard seltzers, but that share their many selling points, for themselves.

Two years on from the onset of Covid-19, the global beverage alcohol marketplace continues to exhibit subtle regional variations, characterised by shifts across beer, spirits and RTDs.

It’s a highly detailed picture that defies easy generalisations, as the IWSR’s recent analysis of global beverage alcohol category share 2010-21 shows, with beer demonstrating good resilience in volume terms across many markets – but losing ground steadily to spirits when it comes to value. However, the scene has been disrupted by the remarkably rapid growth of RTDs since 2019, stealing share from all rival categories, but especially from beer.

Volume trends

Beer was severely impacted by the pandemic due to its relatively high on-trade exposure, but has still managed to grow volume share since 2016 in most regions. On a servings-adjusted basis, global beer volumes moved up at a CAGR of +0.2% between 2016 and 2019. However, this was mostly driven by large-scale volume declines for low-priced baijiu in China and vodka in Russia.

The same factors led to a volume decline for spirits at a CAGR of -3.1% between 2016 and 2019 – magnified by public health policies in China and Russia aimed at reducing consumption of low-end spirits. In Russia, for example, this has led many consumers to switch to lower-ABV products such as beer or wine.

Look beyond these trends and it’s apparent that beer is tending to expand its market share in emerging markets, but is declining in mature markets, where spirits and RTDs are generally faring better.

As such, in North America, spirits volumes (on a servings-adjusted basis) rose at a CAGR of +3% between 2016 and 2021, but beer volumes fell at a CAGR of -1.7%. Meanwhile, RTDs surged forward, recording a CAGR of +33.3%.

In Europe, another mature market, the picture is more nuanced: while beer declined at a CAGR of -0.8% between 2016 and 2021, spirits fell too, by -0.6%; however, RTDs rose by +2.9%.

Figures for the emerging region of Africa are skewed by the impact of Covid-19. Pre-pandemic growth for beer, however, was positive, with a CAGR of +3.6%, but was outstripped by the performances of spirits (+4.7%) and RTDs (+7%), 2010 to 2019.

Value trends

The contrast between beer and spirits is more pronounced in value terms, with beer losing share to spirits in every region, thanks largely to premiumisation trends in spirits from 2016.

Beer’s global value share declined from 46% to 39% between 2010 and 2019, and fell further to 37% in 2021. Meanwhile, the value share of spirits has increased from 29% to 38%, and then to 40%, over the same timescale.

Here too there are local exceptions, such as beer gaining share in some emerging APAC markets, and the structural decline in low-end vodka in Russia, leading to migration into beer, wine and RTDs. Beer also staged a recovery in South America in 2021, following lockdowns and enforced on-trade closures in 2020.

The premiumisation trend – “less but better” – for spirits is reflected in a marked increase in price per serve for spirits, particularly from 2016, at a time when beer prices remained largely flat. In terms of average price per serving, spirits moved up at a CAGR of +7.3% between 2016 and 2021. While this value surge is partly explained by volume declines in low-end spirits (baijiu, vodka), it also stems from large-scale investments from brand owners to premiumise their portfolios across mature and emerging markets.

Regional value trends

The latter phenomenon is also apparent from an analysis of category value pools by region: as value per serve has grown rapidly, the value pool commanded by spirits has expanded around the world.

This is especially evident in Asia Pacific, where remarkable growth for spirits has taken share from all other categories except RTDs and, on a regional basis, has led to an erosion of Europe’s value share of the global spirits category. While beer’s value share in APAC declined from 40% to 30% between 2010 and 2019 (and fell further to 28% in 2021), spirits increased its share from 45% to 59% – and reached 62% by the end of 2021.

Category value pool analysis also highlights the astonishingly rapid rise of RTDs, especially in North America, where RTDs more than doubled in value between 2010 and 2019, reaching a 5% value share figure in the region – and then doubled again between 2019 and 2021, reaching 11%.

The rise and rise of RTDs

This remarkable momentum is only partly explained by Covid-19 magnifying pre-existing trends, and there are clear signs that the phenomenon is not merely confined to the US.

On a global basis, RTDs have been growing at around 10% per year (+10% CAGR for the top 20 markets, 2010 to 2021), with a rapid acceleration just before and during the pandemic virtually everywhere. While this shift has been most evident in the US, which recorded a volume CAGR of +34% between 2016 and 2021, consumption is rising fast in a number of other countries, including Canada (+26.1% CAGR, 2016 to 2021) and Japan (+10.6%) – and the majority of the top 20 beverage alcohol markets have witnessed accelerating growth for RTDs between 2016 and 2021.

The Struggle with Counterfeiting in Spirits Industry: Coming out of Covid Crisis

Spokesperson: Mr. Ankit Gupta, Gov Body Member, ASPA (Authentication Solution Providers’ Association)

What has been the counterfeiting scenario in the spirits industry during the Covid crisis?

During the Covid crisis, alcohol in India has emerged as the sector with the largest number of counterfeiting incidents. This includes adulteration, trademark infringement, fake liquor, fraud, and other ways to copy products. According to ASPA counterfeit news repository study, alcohol continues to be in the top five sectors in 2018, 2019 and 2020 facing these risks. The same trend continued through 2021. Alone in Uttar Pradesh officials had seized approximately 12.57 lakh litre illicit liquor till November 2021 (Source: Aabkari Times, December 2021).

Despite being one of the most regulated sectors, in normal circumstances also alcohol industry is one of the biggest victims of counterfeiting and illicit trade. During the pandemic the industry was hit badly as sales through restaurants, hotels, etc. was adversely affected. Drinking at home became more acceptable and picked up but was still not enough to substitute the lost revenues. While the industry was struggling with low demand, criminals exploited the demand-supply gap to sell more quantities of counterfeit liquor, creating an even bigger threat to human well-being.

Why is the alcohol industry one of the top targets for counterfeiters and illicit trade?

Criminals are attracted to the alcohol industry because of various reasons e.g. high profitability, evasion of taxes, low consumer awareness, lack of universal pricing in India as well as high demand. In addition to this, the easy availability of raw material Methyl Alcohol, which is widely used for industrial purposes is another reason.

The margins for criminals are considerably huge and despite regulations, the task of counterfeiting and illicit trade is not being made challenging enough for them. During lockdowns, restricted access to and availability of good quality liquor gave a bigger push to the sale and purchase of counterfeit or illicit liquor. In some cases, it was observed that people saw the acquisition of liquor in difficult times at higher rates as social status or public image booster.

The danger has increased as criminals are using more reckless methods of producing and smuggling alcohol. For instance, many incidents of liquor being produced from sanitizers or ethyl alcohol or spirits from petrol and diesel mixed with colour being sold in copycat or discarded packaging surfaced across the country. These products are hazardous.

How can counterfeiting be controlled effectively post-pandemic?

Development of a solution always starts with recognising the problem and assessing its magnitude. Counterfeiting has been underestimated and this has prevented the development of a robust strategy and solution to curtail it. The fight against counterfeiting and illicit trade needs to be fought from three fronts – policy, brand, and consumer. A policy framework that guides support and nurtures an ecosystem which strong against counterfeiters. It should protect businesses and consumers against counterfeiting malice while enabling effective law enforcement and effective punishment to those who commit the crime.

Being an integral part of the system, brands should take solid steps to protect their products by building an adequate defence of anti-counterfeiting solutions and traceability infrastructure. For instance, multi-layered protection through packaging by implementing anti-counterfeiting solutions which make it almost impossible to copy – one-time break seals and sleeves. Supported by smart solutions such as tax stamps, digitally readable labels, QR Codes, etc. Made more effective by awareness which educates consumers about how they can safeguard themselves from counterfeit products.

Consumers can play an important role in the fight against fakes, they are their first line of defence. A little bit of carefulness and attentiveness on their part while buying liquor can save them from getting cheated.

Can the online sale of alcohol be a welcomed trend? Can it help in curbing the sale of counterfeit liquor in the country?

The pandemic crisis has encouraged discussions about the online sale of liquor in many states. According to a survey by YouGov National survey findings, almost 60% of consumers are eager to purchase alcohol online. Safety and convenience have been cited as key reasons to prefer the e-commerce channel to buy alcoholic beverages. While the online channel offers consumers more choice leading to innovation within the category and incremental revenue opportunities for state governments, we need comprehensive regulations and safeguards for selling liquor online and need to tread with a lot of caution. The process and compliance regulations for alcohol delivery will vary from the delivery of groceries or essentials. Moreover, the possibility of alcohol being seized during transit and the adulteration of alcohol by criminals cannot be ruled out either. The authentication industry can offer technology-enabled packaging and anti-counterfeiting solutions that can plug these risks and challenges. The digital footprint cn help in traceability and if done with proper provisions it can ease the process of identifying and catching frauds.

Spirits Producers & Producer Organisations formally unite as the World Spirits Alliance

Global spirits producers unite to get a global voice.



Spirits producers and producer organisations from across the world joined forces recently in Geneva for the formal creation of the World Spirits Alliance (WSA), an international trade association dedicated to representing the views and interests of the spirits sector at the international level. Following many years of successful cooperation, members decided to set up a dedicated, formal organisation to act as the common global voice for the distilled spirits sector.

WSA will act as a representative partner and interlocutor before international organisations, such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations (UN). WSA and its members will continue to pursue the elimination of tariff, non-tariff barriers, and discriminatory taxes, fair, transparent and evidence-based regulation, adequate excise tax structures, proportionate evidence-based public health measures for distilled spirits and ambitious strategies to combat illicit alcohol.

“Many of us have been working together for nearly two decades, hence setting up a formal trade association to act as a united global voice on the integrity and social responsibility of our spirits industry is a natural and important step forward. Distilled spirits are a vibrant and highly dynamic sector with a unique diversity of products and producers across the world,” said Marie Audren who will act as Secretary General for the WSA.


       

“The aims of the WSA are to create a common platform for exchange and have a representative body that will allow us to comment on issues of global relevance, particularly in the areas of trade and regulatory policy, and help develop a positive environment for the sustainable success of the sector,” said Rodolfo González González (Camara Nacional de la Industria Tequilera) who was elected as first President of the WSA.


         

WSA members represent producers of products such as Baiju from China, Tequila from Mexico, Brazilian Cachaça, Indian IMFL, Cognac and internationally traded whiskies like Scotch Whisky, Irish Whiskey and American Bourbon (to name but a few).

“Distilled spirits are celebrated and responsibly enjoyed around the globe and generate jobs, economic growth and tax revenue in the countries where they are produced. At the same time, in many markets around the world, distilled spirits are heavily taxed and regulated, and we face trade barriers that are only applicable, or applied more excessively, to distilled spirits. This situation needs to be reviewed and addressed,” said Amrit Kiran Singh (International Spirits & Wines Association of India) who was elected Vice President.



       

“We want to demonstrate to national authorities that we are committed to responsibility and that advancing fair treatment of spirits products in the marketplace will have a positive impact on their economies,” concluded Chris Swonger, President and CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS).

WSA and its individual members are committed to responsible production, advertising and marketing practices and to encouraging adults who choose to consume spirits, to do so responsibly and in moderation.

The WSA membership includes trade associations and producers of distilled spirits from across the world:

• spiritsEUROPE
• Asia Pacific International Wines & Spirits Alliance Limited
• Camara Nacional de la Industria Tequilera
• The Scotch Whisky Association
• Association of Canadian Distillers
• Pernod Ricard
• DIAGEO
• International Spirits & Wines Association of India
• Japanese Spirits Liquor Makers Association
• Brown-Forman
• Distilled Spirits Council of United States
• Spirits New Zealand
• Rémy Cointreau
• Beam Suntory
• Spirits & Cocktail Australia
• Campari
• Edrington

Mead – From bee to bottle

Mead is the new beer or wine for millenials. A look at the history, its production process and its growing importance.

Mead or honey wine is made by fermenting honey with water. Like beer, mead is sometimes flavored with fruits, spices, grains or hops. But it’s generally higher in alcohol than beer and more in line with grape wine – typically between eight and 20% ABV. Also like wine, mead is produced in a variety of sweetness levels, from bone dry to lusciously sweet and can be still or sparkling.

Within the world of mead, there are sub-group. For example, if mead is mixed with beer or brewed with hops and malt, it becomes a hybrid style closer in taste to beer known as braggot. This beverage, unlike its purely mead-made counterparts, can be produced in breweries. Mead with added fruit is known as melomel, while hydromel is a watered-down version consumed in Spain and France. Great Mead is mead that’s meant to age.

Honey wine occupies a somewhat precarious position between beer and wine. Legally, mead is produced in “wineries” and bottles are usually sold in wine shops. But, thanks to the presence of hops, which some brewers choose to add as a natural preservative, mead is often clumped into the craft beer category. But, the reality is that mead is in a category of its own much like cider or sake. A ubiquitous alcoholic beverage, everyone – ancient Greeks, Africans, and Chinese – all drank mead as far back as 3000 BCE. Mead holds particular importance in Norse mythology, especially in the legend of a fabled beverage with magical powers known as “Poetic Mead”. As the story goes, mythological gods created a man named Norseman Kvasir who was so wise he could answer any question. When he was eventually killed, his blood was mixed with honey, and whoever drank this honey-blood mead took on Kvasir’s power of intelligence. And it’s likely this myth that inspired Danish craft mead producer Dansk Mjod to make its Viking Blod Mead, which is flavoured and coloured red from hibiscus. Mead is frequently consumed in Eastern Europe and Russia. Pretty much any country that produced honey has a history of mead production and appreciation.

Outside of Europe, Mead has been and continues to be popular in Ethiopia, where it’s referred to as tej. Customarily a home-brewed beverage, tej is usually flavoured with powdered leaves of the gesho plant, an African shrub which imparts a slightly bitter flavor and preserves the drink, like hops do for beer.

While Ethiopians typically drink tej out of a bulbous glass container called a berele, nowadays in the US mead is usually served in wine glasses. Though sometimes the drink will come in an Old World drinking vessel like a mazer cup from Germany, which is also the name for the world’s largest mead competition. And, for serious history buffs, there’s always a mead horn. Mead is an ancient drink, thought by many to be the first fermented beverage. Mead is diluted honey that has been fermented. The earliest meads were likely accidental fermentations with wild yeasts, but this eventually developed into organised, intentional meadmaking.

But with the rise of beer and spirits, mead started falling out of fashion in the 1700s and never really made a worldwide comeback. The traditional wine industry has largely ignored the shift to tastes for sweeter beverages and/or more direct use of fruit, spice and other flavours. The craft beer industry on the other hand has embraced these changes. Meads with more alcohol, more body/viscosity and more sugar/acidity definitely have a lot more going on, and a glass of complex wine like a late harvest Riesling or Vidal Ice Wine.

There are almost as many kinds of mead as there are meadmakers. There are several general categories that meadmakers use to classify their products. Traditional meads are made from water, honey and yeast. They range from dry to semisweet. The driest are lacking in the characteristic honey sweetness, but they capture the true “essence” of the honey. The sweeter versions retain some of the sweetness of the honey without being syrupy or cloying. Bochets are made from caramelised honey which adds a layer of complexity, especially to sweet meads.

Sack meads are very sweet traditional meads, often aged for extended periods. They can have the character and complexity of a port or sherry, or the sweetness and fruitiness of a late harvest grape varietal. Melomels are meads made with fruit. Depending on the process and fruits used, these can be very fruity, aromatic and sweet, or dry with just a hint of fruit essence (or anywhere in between).

Metheglins are meads made with herbs and spices. Our word “medicine” likely descended from this term. The varieties in this category are almost limitless. Frequent spices used are clove, cinnamon, ginger, and other “wintery” spices. Juniper is another common additive, as are many herbs in the mint and sage group such as mint, lavender, rosemary, sage, etc. Pyment is a fermented blend of honey and grape juice – probably an ancestor of our grape wines. Pyment can be as diverse as the grapes and honeys used to produce it.

Hippocras is a spiced pyment, usually sweet.It is believed to have been popular among early Mediterranean peoples.

Cyser is mead made with apples, and can be as varied as the myriad apple varieties and the numerous British, French, and American interpretations of cider. The addition of honey allows more variation in sweetness, alcohol content, and shelf life.

Hydromel is a newer category used to classify any mead that is less than 10% alcohol (unless you speak French – then it’s just mead). Our Bee Brews are hydromels. These meads can be as varied as the other categories listed above, if not as common.

Braggot is mead made from malted grains and honey, often with hops as well. It can be thought of as a beer/mead hybrid, and probably predates all-grain beers in origin. Modern interpretations vary from sweet “barleywine-style” braggots, to light, hoppy brews.
Mead is experiencing a renaissance, both among commercial producers and homebrewers.
That growing interest has Jeff Herbert, owner of Superstition Meadery, the first of its kind in Arizona, calling mead “the smallest, but fastest growing sector of the U.S. alcohol business.” He sees it firsthand. Superstition made 300 gallons/year when it opened in 2012, and it’s on track to produce 20,000 gallons in 2017. “That number will more than double in 2018, and in 2019, we plan to produce 100,000 gallons of mead and hard cider,” he says.

“Mead is growing because it is amazing,” he says. “Mead is delicious, and the range of style traverses from dry to sweet, still to sparkling, from quaffable to the most complex beverage that will ever pass your lips.” In India Rohan Rehani, co-founder of Moonshine Meadery, tasted mead, he hated it. It was December 2014 and Rehani and his friend Nitin Vishwas were visiting someone in the US. During the trip, Rehani was curious to taste this alcoholic beverage made with fermented honey that had become the new cool drink in America. But he went beyond just trying it out – one day, Rehani and his friends attempted to brew their own batch of mead. Moonshine’s mead is made from multi-flower honey locally sourced from Maharashtra. “The taste of the mead changes completely depending on what honey we are using,” said Rehani. “Just like all grapes aren’t the same, all honey is not the same. The flavour differs depending on the nectar source [flowers]. There is lychee honey, ajwain honey, eucalyptus honey, jamun honey and each one has a slightly different taste which has a huge impact on the final taste.”