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January 30, 2015

Preview of the Year – 2015 – Part III: Spirits, Chapter I

Part three of Euromonitor International's preview of the year ahead sees the company's senior alcoholic drinks analyst, Spiros Malandrakis, forecast the five key trends that will come to bear on the overall spirits category.

Part three of Euromonitor International’s preview of the year ahead sees the company’s senior alcoholic drinks analyst, Spiros Malandrakis, forecast the five key trends that will come to bear on the overall spirits category.

  • Flavour polarisation, radicalisation and experimentation

From saccharine extensions to the rise of tart offerings and from syrupy indulgence to sour, salty and bitter concoctions, the two extremes of the flavour palette will steal the spotlight. The key Millennial, Generation X and female demographics will find themselves in the crosshairs of large and small producers hard pressed to highlight points of differentiation in increasingly mature and saturated markets. While vodka’s cloying waves begin to subside, the baton has already been passed on to whisk(e)y and liqueurs at the same time that the inevitable backlash will pave the way for diametrically-opposited flavour profiles embracing bitterness – Campari and Fernet Branca will lead the way, while drinking vinegar will enter the fray.

  • Rum lift-off

Theprospect of the US Congress finally lifting the decades long Cuban import ban could provide the spark for the long overdue detonation of the category. While top-line volume growth might continue facing headwinds battering low quality variants in emerging markets, such as India, the category’s versatility and new-found premium aspirations will inform its short-term performance. Embracing the unique heritage of English, Spanish and French expressions, carefully dipping a toe into the flavoured bandwagon and cruising on the enviable momentum enjoyed by dark spirits, rum will be one of the protagonists.

  • Whisk(e)y’s coming of age

Tearing down centuries-old taboos framing the debate around the category, whisk(e)y will continue to question gender targeting, the orthodoxy of aged statements and the stuffy associations of its historic positioning. Outsiders, such as Japanese whiskeys, will continue to disrupt the traditional narrative at the same time that distilleries with fresh, radical propositions and a surprising geographical spread will continue making inroads in global markets thirsty for exotic options. Flavoured whiskies – or is that liqueurs? – will prove more than a fickle trend and will thus retain their pivotal role as a baggage-free introduction to the wider category. On the other hand, and, while experiential marketing initiatives will continue recruiting passionate advocates, vulgar and absurd luxury will need to be side-lined before it alienates the category’s core demographic.

  • The Allure of Others

Frequently obscured by the long and heavy shadow of international spirits behemoths, other spirits will exit the side-lines to assume the role of unlikely protagonists. Cachaca – fighting old prejudices and shifting from commodity status to aspirational exoticism – and raki – capitalising on Diageo’s clout, Turkish diasporas and cuisine and the poignancy of the ‘’slow luxury proposition- will be ones to watch. 

  • White Spirits: Not Raising the White Flag

If vodka was already the whipping boy of the nascent mixology movement to start with, it lost almost all remaining credibility somewhere along the lines of the launch of whipped cream expressions. However, beyond the terminal maturity of the Russian patient, vodka has now gone full circle and could provide the simple, effective, no-frills alternative to the sophistication overload and hipster pretentiousness that replaced it. On the other hand, English gin will continue going from botanical strength to aged experimentation while taking Northern European markets by storm and providing fuel for the explosive growth trajectories of micro-distillers in the UK and the US.

For the second chapter of this preview of the spirits category in 2015, click here.

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