New lease of life for liqueurs
From the after-dinner liqueurs trolley of a few decades ago to the first wave of the cocktail boom in the 1980s, the 1990s’ martini era followed by the more elaborate ‘Sex & the City’-type cocktails and today’s frenzy of complex creations and shotails, it would appear that the days of the simple liqueur drink are generally a thing of the past. In spite of this, with Christmas fast approaching, licensed establishments would do well to address their liqueur offering as this is traditionally the time of year when sales boom
While the after-dinner liqueurs trolley is virtually dead, the liqueurs market as a whole survives – driven largely in recent years by the increasing popularity of cocktails. Drunk on their own, liqueurs are commonly perceived to be sweet, expensive and only for special occasions, however younger drinkers (18-24) view liqueurs as sociable, fun and a key component of cocktails, according to Mintel.
As we move into the Christmas season, sales of traditional liqueurs such as Baileys, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Tia Maria and Drambuie will undoubtedly increase as they do every year, however to really push liqueur sales, move with the trend and add a selection of cocktails to your drinks list.
“Although the day of the liqueur on its own has – for the moment at least – definitely passed its heyday, the cocktail arena is booming,” says Christian Davis, editor, Drinks International. “Responding to this shift in the market, some of the leading brands are putting a lot of effort into trying to reposition themselves away from what is perceived as the somewhat boring sector of liqueurs.” From intense new marketing campaigns to re-shaping of bottles, sponsoring of bands, trendy giveaways and high-profile presence at music festivals, the majority of liqueurs are now being promoted with the younger consumer in mind.
Heavily marketed earlier in the year as part of the National Barbecue Association’s summer drive reaching 1.2 million consumers through a combination of tasting of the Grand Esprit summer cocktail and in-store promotions, Grand Marnier is now recommending ‘Grand Café’ for the cooler months. Take 25ml of Grand Marnier, add it to a good-quality gourmet or espresso coffee and top up with a float of cream.
Created by Louis-Alexander Lapostolle in 1880, Grand Marnier is still owned and run by Louis-Alexander’s heirs, now in the fifth and sixth generations. It is the third highest selling liqueur brand in the world, but today – responding to the shift in the liqueurs arena – is marketed more as a base for cocktails rather than a standalone drink. In addition, each year limited editions of specially designed bottles are introduced as Christmas specials with this year’s version being labelled the ‘Irresistible’ to tempt both collectors and drinkers alike.
The 10th Largest Spirit Brand in the World (Impact, 2009), Jägermeister is also the fastest growing shot brand in the UK (Neilsen 09). Comprising 56 different herbs and spices, Jägermeister was first introduced as a digestive, but today is more often than not the liqueur of choice in a variety of guises for younger drinkers. “The Jägermeister brand has worked hard to reinvent itself with younger drinkers,” says Christian Davis, Drinks International. “It has successfully repositioned itself away from a rather boring market to a fun market encompassing younger drinkers.”
Drunk predominantly either in Jägerbombs (mixed with an energy drink), or as an ‘ice cold shot’ directly from the freezer or tap machine, Jägermeister is another brand that benefits from intense marketing aimed at the 18-25 age group. As well as the Jäger Music Programme that sponsors 30 bands including Bullet for my Valentine and Fightstar, Jägermeister is promoted at events and rock festivals throughout the UK courtesy of two 14 ton ex-Russian military trucks that turn into stages upon which the Jäger Bands perform.
No self-respecting establishment with a young clientele can afford to be without this drink.
Made to a recipe first created by a Bénédictine monk in 1510, Bénédictine contains a blend of 27 herbs and spices sourced from across the globe. Its traditional methods of production and maturation, which require more than two years of care and attention, engender a rich and complex taste that has enabled the drink to win numerous international awards, including recent medals from the IWSC and ISC.
Unlike other herb-based liqueurs, Bénédictine is made using neutral spirit and as such is surprisingly versatile. Classic serves include Bénédictine and Brandy (B&B), Bénédictine and Tonic, Bénédictine and Grapefruit and, of course, the world-renowned Singapore Sling.
A century after the brand’s first bottling in Edinburgh, Drambuie is introducing a dramatic new bottle design during the second half of 2009. This move is the latest step in the revival of the Scotch Whisky Liqueur under the guidance of CEO Phil Parnell, who took the helm in 2005 and initiated a long-term strategy to rebuild the brand equity of the product that had seen its heyday in the 1970s and ’80s.
“At its core, this strategy is based on moving beyond the conventional after-dinner liqueur-drinking occasion, introducing a younger generation of consumers to a much more versatile product, with relevance to today’s modern lifestyle,” says Parnell.
The lynchpin of Drambuie’s international marketing activity has been the ‘Drambuie Pursuit’. Inspired by Bonnie Prince Charlie’s flight from Culloden in 1746, this adrenalin-charged race across the Highlands of Scotland has teams of consumers competing from most of Drambuie’s key markets.
“Drambuie’s packaging has scarcely changed since the first commercial bottling in 1909 and while the bottle is something of an icon, it is so heavily associated with the after-dinner liqueur that it was decided to take a radical approach to introducing
new packaging,” says Miranda Rennie, marketing director.
Unlike many other liqueurs, which are aimed increasingly at the 18-24 age group, Tia Maria’s recent £1million ‘Deliciously Unexpected’ advertising campaign targeted 25-35 year old women. “The campaign reinforced Tia Maria’s relevance as a sociable and mixable spirit for today’s modern woman,” says Pat Venning, head of marketing at Pernod Ricard UK.
In the UK, 2.5 measures of Tia Maria are sold every second (Pernod Ricard UK depletion figures, July 2008).
De Kuyper is the world’s largest producer of cocktail liqueurs. Founded in 1695 by Petrus De Kuyper in Schiedam, Netherlands, De Kuyper initially specialised in making kegs for beer and gin then rapidly progressed into distilling.
Today, De Kuyper is still a family-owned company with annual sales of over 50 million bottles in more than 100 countries. There are 18 varieties of De Kuyper cocktail liqueurs available in the UK. Here are just some of them:
Crème de Cacao (Brown)
Appearance: Deep mahogany, almost opaque.
Nose: Intense aromas of chocolate, caramel and walnuts.
Taste: Soft and sweet with a delicate combination of vanilla and chocolate flavours.
Appearance: Brick red core with a mahogany rim.
Nose: Complex and intense bouquet of red and black cherry overlaid with almond and marzipan aromas.
Taste: Essence of cherries with a spicy note on the finish.
Appearance: Crystal clear.
Nose: Pronounced Seville orange aroma, both fresh fruit and peel.
Taste: Fresh and lively with attractive bitter orange notes and a touch of sweetness on the finish.
Crème de Cassis
Appearance: Deep raspberry core, with a terracotta rim.
Nose: Powerful aromas of very ripe crushed blackcurrant with blackberry and raspberry overtones.
Taste: Nutty and earthy notes combine with the intense flavour of blackcurrant to create a complex liqueur.
The Erven Warninks company was established in 1616 and was one of the original producers of advocaat. 40 million fresh eggs a year are used in the production of Warninks Advocaat. The egg whites are separated from the yolks, which are then mixed with brandy, sugar and vanilla.
Another of those drinks that triumph at Christmas, Warninks is the brand leader and outsells all other advocaats. The essential ingredient for the classic ‘Snowball’ cocktail, Warninks won a Gold Medal in the 2001 International Wine & Spirit Competition.
Launched in the 1980s, Malibu is the original Caribbean rum with natural coconut flavour and the world’s favourite, selling 3.5 million 9L cases each year in more than 150 countries. The drink has been honoured at several major international spirits competitions, including silver at the 2007 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
The drink is currently benefiting from a two-year £14 million marketing campaign – ‘Get Your Island On’ – aimed at 18-24 year olds, which includes TV, digital, press, radio, experiential and sampling activities. The campaign aims to position Malibu as a versatile, highly sociable drink and encourages consumers to tap into their infectious Caribbean mindset, bringing the light-hearted spirit and upbeat energy of the islands to their everyday lives.
The UK is the second largest market in the world for Malibu sales, with 4.4 million bottles being sold every year, accounting for 12 per cent of total global volume.
Jo Spencer, head of marketing at Pernod Ricard UK, comments: “Malibu is seen by its consumers as a truly iconic brand. Our advertising campaign gives Malibu the opportunity to showcase the infectious, engaging spirit which is at the heart of the brand, and which is very relevant to our core target.”
Sambuca is the number one selling shot brand and Luxardo Sambuca holds an impressive 60 per cent share of the market (AC Nielsen Jan 2009). This summer UK distributor Cellar Trends not only rebranded the original Luxardo Sambuca, it also created and launched a whole new range of flavours: black, cream, cranberry, pomegranate, spiced apple and raspberry.
“The new Luxardo flavours were created specifically from demand we researched in the UK market,” says Catherine Rigby, marketing manager for Luxardo at Cellar Trends. “We are excited by the number of new trade customers stocking the range and others who recognise there is consumer demand for at least a couple of the adventurous new Luxardo Sambuca styles. The flavours are created for perfect layering while the depth of flavour makes them ideal as the main ingredient in easy long cocktails and pitchers.”
Cellar Trends offers good support to on-trade outlets. Contact the company for items such as posters for the back bar, tentcards, bar runners, pitchers, shot glasses and cocktail bar spoons to create Luxardo Shotails. If you are thinking of extending your sambuca offering, it’s worth bearing in mind that Luxardo is valued as the only sambuca brand that layers properly when building shotails, according to Cellar Trends.
“The new Luxardo flavours reflect the coming of age of sambuca as a desirable addition alongside mainstream spirits,” adds Rigby. Looks like they are a must for your younger customers this Christmas.
In spite of being harder to use in cocktails than other liqueurs, which has resulted in a decline in its market share in the past few years, cream liqueurs nevertheless remain the largest liqueur sector in terms of volume, having the widest appeal across different consumer groups.
Dominating the cream liqueur market, Baileys accounts for about 50
per cent of the sector. According to Diageo, this Christmas favourite
is, impressively, both the number one liqueur brand and seventh largest
premium spirit in the world. Baileys’ tried and tested formula was voted
a winner by Drinks International in the magazine’s blind tasting
of cream liqueurs last year: “It won hands down,” says editor Christian
The brand does not, however, rest on its laurels and continues to market itself aggressively. This year’s £7 million Christmas marketing campaign for Baileys and Baileys Flavours started in September and will be backed up by a significant TV media spend.
Bearing in mind that Baileys is the number one spirit brand in terms of household penetration at Christmas (AC Nielsen Homescan 2008), this is one liqueur that must occupy a prime spot on your shelf. Moreover, as one of the most impulsive BWS brands with four out of every seven purchases happening on impulse – i.e. not pre-planned (Incite Research 2008) – this traditional favourite should be actively promoted to your customers to ensure best possible sales figures.
Presented as the first super premium cream liqueur, Coole Swan was created by three individuals with a passion and a simple aim: “To make the world’s most delicious tasting cream liqueur where every single ingredient is the best of the best,” says Adrian Walker, co-founder of Coole Swan, who has over 20 years’ experience in the drinks industry.
The blend comprises fresh Irish double cream combined with the softest, most rounded Single Malt Irish Whiskey the trio could find. “Unlike any other Irish Cream Liqueur, real chocolate is gently melted into the cream resulting in a smooth, melt-in-the-mouth experience that is complemented by the rich, dark, bittersweet cocoa from the Cote d’Ivoire and the delicate infusions of finest Madagascan bourbon vanilla,” says Adrian.
Launched in Dublin in March 2007 and now available both in the UK and USA, this newcomer to the cream liqueur sector was voted World’s Best Liqueur 2009 at the World Spirits Competition in San Francisco, making it the first ever cream liqueur to be awarded the coveted title. The judges also awarded the drink a Double Gold medal for excellence.
Unlike any other cream liqueur, Amarula is not made from a whisky or brandy base but rather a fruit spirit. Marula are the fruit of the marula tree, which grows wild on the plains of sub-equatorial Africa. Local people harvest the fruit (providing an important source of income) and the flesh and skin are fermented into a marula wine prior to distillation into marula spirit. Following maturation for three years in oak casks, the marula spirit is then blended with fresh cream to create Amarula.
Launched in 2008 by The Reformed Spirits Company, Triibe is heralded as the world’s first totally clear cream liqueur that is both dairy and lactose free. Made with Irish Malt Whiskey including hints of chocolate, vanilla and caramel this drink is aimed unequivocally at younger drinkers.
"The problem with traditional cream liqueurs is their lack of mixability – not the taste, they all mainly taste great, but the colour,” says David Bromige, creative director. “With Triibe, whatever you add gives colour, whether its Blue Curacao or green Chartreuse, or floating ‘petals’ of strawberry puree – the colours remain pure and vivid.”
Cleverly marketed via ‘Triibal Gatherings’ during August, September and October when the drink was heavily promoted at different bars up and down the country alongside break dancers, ‘triibal’ face painters, drummers and circus acts, Triibe already has its own ritual whereby vanilla sugar is licked off the back of the hand, a shot of Triibe is taken, then an orange slice is sucked. “Someone said it’s a bit like drinking a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, but I like to think of it as a different take on the old Tequila ritual,” says David.