Stones Ginger Joe alcoholic ginger beer

Stone's Ginger Joe alcoholic ginger beer

The arrival of Stone's to the alcoholic ginger beer sector could add some gravitas to this emerging corner of the UK drinks market.

The business formerly known as Constellation Australia & Europe - but not yet officially known as Accolade Wines - has launched Ginger Joe alcoholic ginger beer under its Stone's brand.

It's a move clearly inspired by the initial success of Halewood International's Crabbie's alcoholic ginger beer, which was launched just over a year ago. In that time, the UK market for alcoholic ginger beer has gone from next-to-nothing to a cool GBP21.8m (US$35.5m), according to Constellation marketing manager Clive Patten.

The arrival of Stone's should add more weight to the category. Stone's Ginger Wine can be found in many-an elderly relative's drinks cabinet and, while Ginger Joe is targeted at a much younger audience, Constellation hopes that the Stone's branding and heritage will have resonance.

Stone's Ginger Wine also has 90% distribution in the UK off-trade, which could help Constellation/Accolade to crowbar Ginger Joe onto shelves.

Ginger Joe will seek to usurp Crabbie's via its inferred use of more serious liquid - what Patten calls Constellation's "conscious decision to reduce sweetness levels" - as well as smaller "more manageable" bottles (33cl versus Crabbie's' 50cl) and a quirkier image.

According to Patten, the company is also seeking to nab premium lager and cider drinkers. "This is not just a me-too brand, we're trying to grow the category," Patten told just-drinks at the end of last week. The company will spend GBP0.5m on launching the brand.

However, the group is mindful of the Magners/Bulmers shift from explosion to implosion within the space of 12 months back in 2006-07. Patten said that Stone's Ginger Joe is aiming for gradual, but lasting, sales growth. "We've built a brand here for the medium to long-term," he said. "We don't just see this as a short-term fad."

With Stella Cidre due out at Easter and Ginger Joe due out just before, it's going to be an interesting summer in the UK drinks trade.