Gin undergoes a ginaissance as shifting consumer demands drive innovation 

Gin consumption is also growing steadily in Africa with South Africa’s consumption of the liquid growing 50% and distilleries expanding to 65 in 2019, and still counting.

We are in the ‘ginaissance’ period where gin consumption is outpacing any other drink in the alcoholic beverages category across the World.

According to data from IWSR, gin posted the largest gain in global beverage alcohol consumption of any category in 2018: a rise of 8.3% globally versus 2017. In Europe where over half of the overall gin market share was based in 2020, distilleries are mushrooming, flooding the market with new products – the UK alone saw 49 new distilleries opened in 2017 and a further 31 in 2018.

After being dethroned by vodka in the in the 1980s, the category is charging back in the US with overall volumes shooting to just under 9.3 million cases, up 2.5% from the year prior.

Gin consumption is also growing steadily in Africa with South Africa’s consumption of the liquid growing 50% and distilleries expanding to 65 in 2019, and still counting. Kenya in the East African region, is also seeing gin take its space in the alcoholic beverage aisle, with Diageo’s EABL attributing its 15% growth in revenue in 2020 to a higher consumption of its gin products.

By 2023, the gin category is expected to see a volume CAGR of 4.2% globally, with most growth coming from non-traditional and emerging markets, where gin will boom in countries such as Japan, Nigeria, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Russia.

Gin – why all the fuss?

Gin is a clear alcoholic spirit which is distilled from grain or malt and derives its predominant flavor from juniper berries.

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Usually, the drink is made from a base of grain, such as wheat or barley, which is first fermented and then distilled. Juniper berries and other herbs, plants and spices – known as aromatics, or botanicals – are added to the fermented grain mixture, along with water until the alcohol level and balance of flavors meets the required (or desired) levels.

Common gin botanicals include coriander, orange, lemon, angelica root, cinnamon, cassia, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg and ground almonds. Given that the wide range of botanicals that can be used in gin production, every single brand and edition has a completely different taste profile.

As gin rises in popularity globally, distillers have been busy, seeking the next best innovation that will help their brands stand out in the crowded gin aisle.

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Below, we have outlined some of the trends that are expected to continue driving the gin market in 2022 and beyond.

Ready-to-drink gins gain popularity

The ready-to-drink (RTD) gin category took the beverage industry by storm when the pandemic started, rising in popularity for the on-the-go convenience it offered consumers.

In 2021, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association of the UK (WSTA) said UK consumers spent a whopping £412m (US$558m) on beverages from the ready-to-drink (RTD) category, up nearly 25% on the previous year. 

What started as an extension of the RTD trend that was taking other categories of the beverage industry has seen almost all major gin brands launch their own canned versions of the drink. One of the first gin brands to hit the ready-to-drink market, Gordon’s now has an extensive range of ‘gin in a tin’ options including its London Dry Gin with tonic and with elderflower, and its Pink Distilled Gin with tonic.

The increasing geographical spread of distilleries has led to a variety of citrus fruits being employed in gin processing, stretching the list beyond common-garden lemons and oranges to new choices such as yuzu and ukiyo

Bombay Sapphire dipped its first toe in the ready-to-drink pool in 2020 with the launch of its gin and tonic cans. The brand further expanded its RTD range in 2021 when it launched two new RTD gin and tonic offerings: Bombay Sapphire and light tonic and Bombay Bramble and tonic.  We can only imagine that this will continue into 2022 (and beyond) as more and more brands catch on.

Low and no alcohol gins

The pandemic made people become health conscious, with many opting to limit their intake of high alcohol drinks.

To survive in the market, many brewers and distillers launched their own low and no alcohol variations, the gin category being no exception. The range of options is only going to get broader and more varied as big names in gin such as Tanqueray, Gordon’s and Beefeater are staking their own claims in this trend.

Launched in January 2021, Gordon’s 0.0 gin is arguably the most recognizable gin brand on the market. The Zeo Botanical Dry and the Clean G strawberry gin alternative are other fast-growing brands carving a name for themselves in this rapidly growing category.

More products brands are expected to experiment with no and low alcohol gin formats as that’s where demand seems to be going. According to IWSR data, in the period between 2018 and 2021, the category grew from US$7.8bn to just under US$10bn across the key focus markets of Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, South Africa, Spain, the UK, and US. 

IWSR now forecasts that no- and low-alcohol volume will grow by +8% CAGR between 2021 and 2025, compared to regular alcohol volume growth of +0.7% CAGR during that same period.

Pink gins become mainstream

Pink gin is no longer a niche offshoot – it is a rapidly expanding segment in its own right, according to insiders in the UK trade.  The rise of pink gins has been mainly driven by Instagram-inspired popularity of colorful drinks and cocktails, according to a report by UK newspaper Guardian.

To capitalize on this popularity, several major brands have released a pink gin, including Gordon’s, Beefeater, Pinkster and Edinburgh gin.

According to a Grocer report, Diageo’s Gordon’s Pink Gin is now worth more in grocery than the entirety of some big-name spirits brands such as Russian Standard, Bell’s, Captain Morgan and other -household names, having experienced a £63m (US$85.3m) sales surge in 2019. 

IWSR notes that a dislike of juniper is one of the reasons some consumers don’t like the flavour of gin. The masking of the flavor in the pink varieties is certainly expected to continue drawing more people to gin, though enthusiasts still have their reservations about the quality of the product.

“While some may question the authenticity of flavoured gin, the expansion has undeniably boosted the overall sector,” said Kantar analyst Amy Clark. Some 36% of all gin shoppers now only by flavoured variants, she added.

Experimentation with citrus varieties

Gin production has moved from Europe and is now produced in almost all regions of the world from South Africa to China and Japan.

The increasing geographical spread of distilleries has led to the variety of citrus fruits being employed stretching beyond common-or-garden lemons and oranges. Recent trendy choices include yuzu, a hybrid citrus fruit, and an edible, orange-like fruit that is native to Southeast Asia. Four Pillars in Australia, Ukiyo in Japan and Tarquin’s in England have employed yuzu in new releases this year, demonstrating the potential this citrus fruit have in adding new flavor profiles to gin.

Other fruits that distillers have found favor among distillers include Finger limes in Australia, gondhoraj limes in India, and bergamot in the Mediterranean. More experimentation in this area is expected as consumer sense of adventure is coming back, driving up appetite for “new tastes paired with familiar flavors,” according to Kerry’s Global Taste Charts for 2022. 

Sustainability influences gin production

Commitment to sustainability is becoming a standard in almost every sector of the food industry.

Diageo, the world’s second largest gin producer, has set itself a target to reach net zero carbon across its operations by 2030.

This commitment has seen the whole gin production process overhauled to become more efficient and emit less carbon to the atmosphere. Progress has already been made in this front with some carbon-neutral gins such as Cooper King dry gin and Nàdar Gin already coming to market as early as 2020.

As concerns about climate change continue to unravel, we expect to see more energy-efficient distilling equipment and methods; distilleries generating their own power; increased use of lighter bottles and recyclable packaging material; and efforts to reduce and cleverly reuse waste products such as water and spent grain.

Going beyond innovation

The world of gin is a very exciting and dynamic environment to be in at the moment. Distillers from across the world are competing to make not only great gins, but gins that stand out from the crowd.

To create a name for yourself, bbb drinks advises distillers to create a story that consumers can connect with. “It should be a backstory that resonates with people and gives them a happy feeling when they are drinking your product,” the drinks expert adds. 

In addition, gin must be careful not to repeat the mistakes of its closest rival vodka that has struggled to keep its head above the water in recent times; the consumer backlash against faddy flavours marketed by brands has been extensively documented.

Similarly, as ever-more obscure and radical botanical tinctures are beginning to overcrowd the gin market, flavour fatigue and lack of equity may start to haunt the category, unless investors moderate and finetune their innovations. Finally, as growth starts to slow in Europe and the US., it is also a high time distillers started looking for promising growth market particularly in Africa and Latin America

This feature appeared in the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of Food Business Africa. You can read this and the entire magazine HERE

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