Flavoured alcoholic beverages are tipped to be the fastest growing category of the recovering Russian spirits market this year. Volume sales in 2002 were up 20% on 2001 and double-digit growth is predicted through to 2005.

The figures come from Canadean's report on the Russian spirits market which shows that although overall per capita and volume figures are below the high of 1999, both are continuing a year on year climb back.

Flavoured Alcoholic Beverages (FAB's) - the most dynamic spirits category - are now being produced by virtually all distilleries, principally for consumers within the 16- to 24-age range. Producers are actively promoting a plethora of new brands, including one recently introduced range aimed at the health conscious drinker, containing juice. However, the "gin-tonic" market share has diminished with the leading role now played by fruit flavoured drinks based on vodka.

But whatever startling performance figures are turned in by other spirit categories the vast bulk of the spirits market - well over 90% - is still dominated by vodka. A high demand for a quality product has led to the development during the last three years of many new brands by Russian manufacturers. Partly as a consequence of these improvements the share of imported vodka has decreased substantially and is now represented in the premium class only.

Brandy and Cognac consumption growth in recent years has been second only to that of FABs with both local and imported brands benefiting. A low consumer awareness of the different products available points to further potential to grow the market and, claims the report, as many as ten per cent of vodka consumers could partially desert their drink in favour of brandy.

Despite the fact that there are no local producers, the small whisky category has also recorded positive year on year growth since 1998 and is due to expand another 12% this year. The product may have less than 1% of the spirits market due to its high price, but is said to have potential for expansion and brand diversification if distillers' advertising is able to successfully exploit the drink's fashionable image.