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Gin Spin: News from January & February

Gin spin dodds
Gin Spin Fever Tree
Written by Gin Foundry

Festive Boozing.

Christmas is but a twinkle in our memories by now, but distillers are only just picking themselves up off the floor after a frenetic festive season. Big data firm IRI reported early on in January that UK consumers spent £36m on gin in supermarkets in the week building up to Christmas, up 45% on the same period in 2016. This has a knock on effect in the mixer market, too, with mixer sales up around the 30% mark (by value).

The £36m, in case you were wondering just how far into a William Hogarth painting this country has descended, is equivalent to 2.2million bottles. Gin was, in fact, a bit of a shining light when it came to dwindling supermarket sales, with sales of non-food products dwindling across the board.

Acquisitions, takeovers and… firings.

Martin Miller’s has a famously unusual way of making gin, shipping their England-made spirit out to Iceland to be cut with local water. That effort is clearly worth it, as the gin is a great seller, especially in Spain where it is, according to CEO Jacob Ehrenkrona, “the fastest growing super-premium gin” on the market.

It’s no surprise then, that Zamora Company has taken a majority (55%) stake in the brand. While Ehrenkrona and co-founder David Bromige will keep their roles, co-founder Andreas Versteegh will hand his Chairman title over to Zamora CEO Emilio Restoy, swapping the reigns for a seat on the board.

Meanwhile, Dodd’s Gin creator, The London Distillery Company, has announced the termination of its founder, Darren Rook’s employment following a HMRC investigation into tax concerns at the business. This is pretty big news for the distillery, at which Rook has been the beating heart. We’re curious to see what direction the distillery takes; it’s got a big year ahead, with plans to move to Battersea Power Station in full swing (thus bringing tour opportunities with it, and the potential to turn Dodd’s into a household name).

For those worried about Rook… don’t get your tissues out just yet. He’s a man with his fingers in many pies and is building brands all over the world and we’ve got no doubt he’ll be a common sighting once more as soon as it’s all cleared up.

Mergers, acquisitions and dismissals weren’t the sole preserve of the gin market this January, with Fever-Tree takeover whispers are rattling around the Gin chambers at the moment following a ‘Buy’ rating from analysts Jefferies. This, coupled with talk around a potential takeover by Unilever (and some senior appointments that might suggest this is underway), sent shares soaring, hitting a peak of 2,569p.

It’s been a good month overall for the pioneering tonic brand, which just published its 2017 figures. Full year revenue was up 66% on 2016, estimated to have been at an effervecent £169m. This was undoubtedly helped along by the Christmas boost and the success of their Clementine Tonic too.

Fever-Tree co-founder Tim Warrilow was understandably positive, saying: “While we have seen strong growth across all regions, our performance in the UK over the Christmas period was once again exceptional. Our growing range of mixers and formats are appealing not only to our loyal customers, but also bringing consumers back to the category and importantly attracting a new younger audience.”

How many?

Fever-Tree’s growing success is directly in line with the growth of distilleries across the UK. This month, the Wine and Spirits Trade Association reported that the number of new distilleries in the UK has doubled in the last five years, with 315 now open across the country (49 of which hatched in 2017).

Citing the boom as a result of the ‘ginaissance,’ WSTA Chief Executive Miles Beale said: Gin is the key driver behind the surge in new distillery openings in the UK in the last five years. New gin brands continue to pop up on our supermarket shelves, on a regular basis, as Brits show no sign of tiring of the quintessentially British spirit. It wasn’t that many years ago when a pub would stock one gin brand, and now a gin menu offering a range of gins and mixers is commonplace in our pubs and bars.”

Despite the (mad) amount of gins we get pitched at us on a weekly basis, we’re still surprised to hear the 49 distilleries opened last year. That’s… a growth no one could have foreseen. Quite when will Craft Gin become old hat?

Gin Vending Machine!

Catchy title, yes, but this is reality. We spent quite a bit of last year moaning about the lack of activations going on in the Gin sphere, so it’s fair to say we were happy to get a press release from Lone Wolf Spirits through our inbox. The team set up a little home for themselves in Old Street’s famous roundabout, wherein they held a Burns Night supper and helped raise awareness of their brand in the capital.

Those who tweeted the brand using that hashtag #TheWolfOfOldStreet were given a token to use in a vending machine distributing cans of Lone Wolf G&Ts. Given the not inconsiderable footfall at the station, it’s fair to assume that a lot, lot more Londoners will have Lone Wolf on the brain for a while now.

Not So Lone Wolf

While we’re on the topic of Lone Wolf, Managing Director Doug Bairner has defended the spirit brand’s distribution deal with drinks giant Global Brands. While sceptics have called out the disparity between Lone Wolf’s “lone” nature and Global Brands’ global nature, Bairner insists it is the right move for his brand.

In an interview with the Morning Advertiser, he praised the distributor’s ability to seed drinks, citing its work with Franklin & Sons: “If you speak to any bartender who is worth their salt, they recognise how good Franklin & Sons tonics and mixers are, and that is the credibility Global Brands have built in that space, and that is the side of their business we are working with.”

The objective, according to the interview, is for Lone Wolf to increase sales of its gin, vodka and RTDs by 100,000 cases over the next two years – pushing sales up £40m.

Lone Wolf is a real contender – it’s shaken its aggressive stance, it’s performing real craft by going from grain to glass and – most importantly of all – it’s making great gin. The only thing at risk is its ‘punk’ USP but that had already softened by the time the soft launch was over so that continuing trend was to be expected.

You Have My Heart…

Cupid appears to have stolen his way into many a distillery, with gin brands up and down the country offering special Valentine’s editions. For those of you looking to woo your way to success the boozy way, here’s a glimpse of what’s on offer…

Eden Mill’s Love Gin is a good place to start. With sweet vanilla and florals galore, this is a romantic sipping experience, made all the better by it’s too-pretty-to-throw-away bottle. Pinkster has thrown fuel into the fire with its special, heart bedecked Valentine’s edition, just a regular ol’ bottle of the raspberry gin, but with the cheeky slogan ‘let the love be gin’ slapped across the front. Cheesy? Yes, of course. Cute? Yup, that too.

Edinburgh Gin also got in on the action with the rebirth of its Valentines Gin, pink in hue thanks to an infusion of rose petals and hibiscus and expensive in looks thanks to the brands Art Deco rebrand. With lemongrass, kaffir lime and lemon balm in the botanical line-up, this promises to be as zingy as it is sweet. Liverpool Gin is also showing everyone what a good boyfriend it could be with its Rose Petal Gin. This highly fragranced gin is as feminine as they come, with a soft pink wax cap denoting the floral nature of the gin within.