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Ginfographic 2015

Written by Gin Foundry

Let’s start this off with a beautiful disclaimer. Ginfographic 2015 was not paid for and has been answered by 922 “everyday” people, who heard about it down the gin grapevine. This is not a manicured snapshot of a specific segment of society, tailored by a company whose focus groups have the international repute of being “on the pulse” of current trends. It was open to all who wanted to enter, and shared between readers, fans, brands, and anyone who would listen over a two-month period. For context - numerically speaking, there are 800 more people who have answered our survey than those who have taken part in that of a well-known cosmetic beauty giant’s who use their “8 out of 10 women agree” stats on current television adverts… To our knowledge, this survey is one of the biggest Gin surveys ever undertaken that is available for all to see.

Whilst the answers are all genuine, it is likely that the participants are disproportionately represented by the Gin Foundry audience. They are the ones who made it possible and whose prolific sharing as well as active voice in promoting it were the driving force behind so many completed entries. Our readers are, like us, glorious gin geeks. This makes us very proud. However, this also means a couple of the questions will be slightly influenced by the connoisseur end of the market as opposed to an average consumer, with their 2.4 children, buying supermarket home brand gin twice a year.

Additionally in terms of geography, 76% of entries were from the UK, with the rest primarily from the US. In the aim of full disclosure and better insight, we’ll point out this occasional “connoisseur factor” in the analysis below as this also means that some answers take on a whole new significance and provide any bars and brands reading this some critical facts to implement. More on this below…

Finally, for all of you who gave up a moment of your busy time for this annual survey, thank you so much, we really appreciate it. By doing this year on year, there will finally be a bank of information for anyone looking to do trend research on the category. As promised – here is the link to download the beautifully designed and informative Ginfographic 2015. We hope you like it!

What is your favourite Gin cocktail?

Despite dropping from 68% in 2014 to 60% in 2015, the Gin & Tonic is still the king of Gin concoctions by a long way. Interestingly, the drop off outside the top three cocktails is extreme with classics like the Bramble, Tom Collins, Aviation not really going anywhere year on year. As all the trends predicted it would, the Negroni has grown in popularity over the year rising up 3%. The classic, timeless nature of the Martini keeps it on everyone’s radar.

Expect the rise of the Martini and Negroni to continue over 2015 and into next year’s survey.

On average, how many Gin cocktails do you drink per week?

No surprises here. Most people will only have one or two cocktails per week and even those having more, may not opt to have Gin cocktails in favour of other spirits. The real question is that if most people are primarily drinking Gin & Tonics as shown above, how much harder do bars need to work to upsell a different gin based cocktail…? Moreover, if that logic is anything to go by, would it be more beneficial for them to have more cocktails based on other spirits on bar menus given the majority of gin is sold through G&T’s? It’s a controversial thought for you and even though there might be some truth to it, we certainly hope not.

When you order a Gin & Tonic in a bar, do you expect to be asked which gin you would like?

This is the first major change since the 2014 survey. 55.64% of people answered ‘Always’ here, compared to only 40% who answered this last year. While the “geek audience” factor may play a role in the extremely few that answered ‘Never’, the ‘Always’ expectation is a trend that is sweeping across consumers of all demographics as the level of customer service from top end bars is trickling down to other establishments. With an increased amount bartenders asking the question, more of you expect to be asked.

Furthermore - with more gins on back bars than ever, and more patrons expecting to be asked what their preferences are, we would go as far as saying that bartenders need to be asking the question to even be taken seriously nowadays. How times have changed…

Do you ever ask for a particular Gin brand when you order a Gin & Tonic in a bar?

The reverse question of the above. This is a question not aimed at service expectations but understanding consumer loyalty towards particular brands. With the “geek audience” factor once again possibly swaying the ‘Always’ and ‘Never’ answers, the real story is in the difference between flavour profile and visibility. The gap is similar to the 2014 result with 39% of entries saying they name call a brand having seen it, while only 11% are brand specific because they are going in knowing what flavour they want.

Despite education and information about the contents and flavours in each bottle being much more prevalent than ever, it has had little impact on the old marketing levers of back-bar positioning and overall brand appeal when it comes to ordering a specific gin.

What is your favourite style of glass for a Gin & Tonic?

Spanish fever is setting in! The Copa glass may have come in second to the ever popular high-ball, but it’s grown from 23% to 28% since last year. The high-ball also lost ground to the rocks glass compared to last year. With a huge emphasis now placed on garnishes in Gin & Tonics expect the high-ball to be taken down another inch or two over the coming year.

We expect there will be a trend for more creative garnish combinations, which means the use of wider glasses that enhance aroma will become more popular. Both bars and brands are now serving Gin & Tonics with complex garnishes and this has helped normalise once perceived overly adventurous options, bringing them into the mainstream.

When you make your own Gin & Tonic, what is your preferred Gin to Tonic ratio?

Despite there being a lot of talk of lower ABV cocktails in trade publications over the past 12 months, the preferred Gin & Tonic ratio has gotten stronger across the board since the 2014 Ginfographic. The percentage growth in each section shows a clear shift towards a boozier ratio with the anaemic 1 part gin to 4 parts tonic becoming the least favourite option once again.

The order of preference has remained the same across the other options too, despite the increase in popularity for 1 to 1 serves, with 1 part gin to 3 parts tonic remaining the most popular ratio.

What is your favourite type of tonic water?

It’s a hardly surprising result to see Fever-Tree on top given their stellar brand power and cemented premium reputation. That said, given they scored higher than last year, if this is ever to be reversed, expect Schweppes and supermarket home brands to lose traction first as they seem to be the biggest losers for the public’s choice.

Much like craft Gin eroded Gordon’s massive sales before competing with each other as they are today, tonic seems to be following this trend and shifting consumers away from Schweppes rather than cannibalising each other’s place in the market just yet. This is the most exciting area in gin’s periphery and will be interesting to observe over the next 12 months.

While it changes depending on the brands used - IN GENERAL - what is your favourite garnish for a Gin & Tonic?

On the surface, this may seem like an unusual question but it is actually, with a little consideration, one of the most revealing questions to the state of the category. Lime is the most aggressive of citrus garnishes and if one had to choose a generic citrus not to overpower a multitude of different gins, lime would not be it.

The fact that it has dropped a huge 10% in a year as the default choice, is a strong indication that most are now looking at what is in their glass more carefully than blindly going for lime.

To lose such a long-standing garnish as the default for many will take years (it wouldn’t be the right thing to do either), but a rise in other options and default choices indicate a rise in the education and acceptance of the diversity of flavours in today’s gin category.

How many different brands of Gin do you own?

This is where the “geekier audience” we mentioned at the top of this article has to be factored in. Most people will not own over 5 brands of gin let alone 1 in 5 people having over 10 gins in their household at any given moment.

While one can safely assume that this graph is influenced by those who own more gin than the average consumer, what is interesting is that these connoisseurs have all got bigger collections than ever before. Year on year, there are fewer people in the 1-2 gin category and many more in the 3-4.

On average, what do you pay for a bottle of Gin?

Despite the same audience responding in droves that they owned a lot of gin (more than the typical shopper), less than 1% purchased gin over £40. More answered they would purchase gin costing less £15 (1.23%) than over £40. It is a good number to remember as it is clearly a fiscal barrier that many will not look to surpass (even those super geeks who own over 4 gins already).

Brands looking to position themselves as super premium should recalculate to be under that threshold if they are looking to generate traction in the UK market.

Out of these top selling and highest trending brands, in your opinion, which is the coolest?

“Cool” is hard to quantify. However, it would seem that being perceived as small is a factor. Hendrick’s, Sipsmith and 2015 victors Monkey 47 are quite big brands, however they are (literally as well as in perceived terms) much smaller than Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire. Perhaps coming off the worse from this results isn’t the lesser known Opihr but Bombay Sapphire whose mighty distillery launch, limited edition releases and big budget advertising campaigns have not allowed it to claw back any of that je-ne-sais-quoi that constitutes “cool”. Sipsmith on the other hand should be happy however – they have doubled in size in less than a year, yet still have the small brand buzz carrying them into the top three.

Do you think there should be a clearly defined set of criteria that distillers must adhere to in order to call themselves a ‘Craft’ Gin?

With the word “Craft” sparking fierce debate within the industry, we are seemingly no closer to being able to place a definition on the term that all producers will be happy with. It is an interesting fact that from a consumer perspective however, there is a clear demand for the term to actually mean something. With 69% of the vote an overwhelming majority, the other key fact is just how few voted to say that it was not important to define - only 9%. Is it time we, along with the industry, took a hard stance on the issue and actually defined it even if it is based on compromises and an acceptable, if mildly generic, middle ground? We hope it happens before the term has lost all its relevance and no longer carries any real meaning.

In your opinion, what is the maximum amount of bottles created in one run for a gin to call itself “small batch”?

To counter the previous statement about the importance of defining Craft, this is exactly why it is so hard to do. On a seemingly straightforward question, how small is small, there is no consensus, trend or correlation despite having over 900 people answering this survey. Less than 600 bottles may be the statistical winner, but it is far from categorical. This is mirrored by the producers themselves. Currently there are brands with “small batch” on their labels producing well over 9,000 bottles per distillation, while there are others with the same term distilling less than 300 bottles worth of gin at a time.

The only real progress here is acknowledging that less than 400 bottles a batch is too small in the public’s opinion and veers into “micro” territory.

Do you look for award stickers like IWSC, Gin Masters or San Francisco World Spirits Competition for an indication of quality on bottles of gin you purchase?

Thousands are spent on entering gins for awards medals each year, yet 47% of shoppers will never even look out for it on a label. With numerous owners sick with the disparity over what constitutes 1st, 2nd and 3rd place (for those wondering - silver medal can be both 4th and 2nd depending on where it’s from) and the cost of entering each year, is it time for less emphasis to be placed on the results? We don’t expect the awards to go anywhere just yet but it’ll be an interesting one to follow in years to come.

With gin expanding into many new frontiers and older styles also re-emerging, which subcategory of gin would you like to see more of in the next year?

With many barrel aged gins emerging over the previous 18 months, it’s interesting to see “Yellow Gin” on top, proving there is clearly a strong demand for more. Given many distilleries are ageing stock, both gin and other, this is a desire we can see materialising in the year ahead too. The continued trend away from sweeter drinks is perhaps reflected in Old Tom Gin getting the least of the core gin subcategories, while Genever still hasn’t made any inroads to get itself back into popularity once more.

To see the GINFOGRAPHIC in all its high resolution glory, click HERE.

Ginfographic 2015