This month, we are thrilled to welcome Patience Gould back into the just-drinks fold. Patience is back to cover the spirits world for us, and kicks off with an in-depth look at Aperol: whatever Aperol is!

Look out for the orange wave!

It’s official: According to its annual results, Aperol is now Gruppo Campari’s largest brand by sales value – happily, too, as it only weighs in at 11% abv, and has a price tag of around GBP11 (US$17.45) in the UK, it’s obviously an extremely profitable line for the Italian company. 

In 2011, it accounted for 12% of group sales compared to 9% in 2010, and how Campari must be celebrating its acquisition back in late-2003 from Barbero 1891, the Italian wines-to-liqueurs producer, which was then owned by the Irish group Cantrell & Cochrane.

The portfolio included Aperol, Aperol Soda and Barbieri liqueurs which accounted for around 60% of that year’s expected turnover, but Aperol was the star attraction. For starters, in the three years between 2001 and 2003, the brand had posted average annual sales growth of 16.5%. 

Post-acquisition growth has been even stronger, both at home and overseas. In under ten years, volumes have more than quadrupled and Campari is maintaining the momentum. In 2011, the company gave Aperol a presentation makeover and a zingier marketing platform, with its signature cocktail, Aperol Spritzer, taking centre stage. Clearly, the brand has not looked back.

So, what is this Italian brand phenomenon? Well it’s variously described as a spirit, liqueur and an aperitif – ergo it’s extremely versatile! It is bright orange in colour, is made from an infusion of herbs as well as roots and, as a result, has a complex taste. But, importantly these days, it has history and, even more importantly, it is low in alcohol. 

It was created by the Barbieri brothers and made a resoundingly successful debut in 1919 at the Padua International Fair. It quickly went on to become one of Italy’s favourite liqueurs. Still produced according to the original recipe, Aperol is now making waves overseas – last year, over half its volume was outside its home market.

“The orange wave – as we like to call it - started originally in Venice and Veneto, then hit all Italy, and it is now taking over Germany, Austria, Switzerland and beyond and more international bartenders are including the drink in their menus,” says Andrea Conzonato, chief marketing officer at Gruppo Campari.

Strong growth in Germany and Austria and elsewhere in Europe, where it has been recently launched aided and abetted a 39% increase in sales value last year, which was underpinned by a double-digit volume increase in Italy. “Opportunities are also seen outside Europe, across all continents, where the brand and signature drink, Aperol Spritz, have been recently launched and warmly welcomed by the industry,” says Conzonato.

Overall, 2011 was something of a watershed year for the brand, as during the International Bartenders Association (IBA) conference in Warsaw, Spritz Veneziano was added to its official list of cocktails – and of course Aperol is a key constituent. This is no mean feat; only cocktails most frequently made by professional bartenders around the world make the IBA’s listing.

Aperol is no overnight sensation – although thanks to invigorating marketing it may seem that way – with its low alcohol content and distinctive taste it’s made for today’s drinking climate. The brand clearly has the legs, to go much further, and Campari has the determination to take it onwards and upwards. Who knows, there could even be a name change in the offing – could it be that, in the not too dim and distant, Gruppo Campari, becomes Gruppo Campari-Aperol?