Webb deVlam shares some thoughts with The Grocer on what’s next for the spirits category.










Gin is still the hero spirit of the moment, with micro-distillers tapping into the craving for botanical, locally produced versions, but rum is hot on its heels. There’s been a lot of premiumisation across the sector, with rum elevating itself from a simple cocktail mixer into something that can be sipped and savoured, much like a whisky. More brands are introducing darker, older products to their ranges to capitalise on this, but this trend is also affecting white rum, with aged brands gaining popularity.

People are interested in the ‘back story’. Take Cruzan Rum, for example – its 250-year-old Caribbean history had become lost after years of rebranding and regeneration. A new bottle and brand design recaptured that story and communicated a more desirable, considered expression of the brand and product.

The drive towards more ‘crafty’, flavourful products with a genuine back story and traceable provenance continues unabated. This is true across the whole food and drink arena, but especially in spirits.

Spirits will become less about strength, in terms of ABV, and more about story-telling. Health concerns have a part to play in this, but there’s also a leaning towards a more connoisseurly approach, where less is more.

People are happier to pay a bit more for a premium product that they feel says something about them, focusing on excellent ingredients, production and provenance. Small batches, micro-distilleries, a signature on the label and attention to detail in the creation and presentation of the product… These are some of the cues that make these bottles stand apart from value brands on shelf.

 What’s next?

The spirits world has always focused on provenance and age but brands will increasingly go about elevating their position in other ways.

Culture of Expertise is everything. Things will continue to become more ‘gastronomic’, focusing on celebrating local provenance, process of production, attention to detail and excellence of ingredients.

The Culture of Consumption is changing too. We’re moving away from complex, elaborate cocktails and towards celebrating spirits themselves – premium ‘enhancers’ such as Fever-Tree and Merchant’s Heart are spearheading the change.

Beyond these cultures, it is also about the drinking experience – Mintel recently shared an insight about the rise of very Instagram-able premium pink spirits among millennials showing off the best bits of their lives.

There’s also a shift happening around the ritual and setting within which spirits are being enjoyed, with a rise in younger consumers creating in-home experiences with friends and the desire to experiment more with new drink and food combinations. This is opening up opportunities for spirits brands to participate in co-creating these experiences, beyond the bottle and the bar.


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