In a year when almost every other category on the German spirits market continued to exhibit signs of long term decline Flavoured Alcoholic Beverages enjoyed spectacular growth with 2002 volumes up by more than 500% over those of 2001, according to the researchcomany Canadean.

Out of the remaining 11 categories only vodka and bitters bucked the downward trend - albeit more modestly than FABs.

Strong branding and investment have resulted in a range of successful FAB products with Smirnoff Ice and Bacardi Rigo now the star performers. The rise of the category is attributed to its having become the fashionable, favoured starter drink for those moving on from soft drinks to alcohol. However, while recording that volumes have expanded to nearly 850 thousand equivalent spirit cases since 1998, Canadean adds a note of caution: several products were launched and discontinued in the course of last year as they failed to achieve targets. The report gives the warning: "This sector particularly appeals to those with the most fickle tastes and the lowest brand loyalty".

Some of FABs' successes spilled over into the vodka category with Smirnoff benefiting from its FABs version and consequently strengthening its overall position, but not enough to topple Gorbatschow as the market leader. Despite an almost 5% improvement, vodka volumes have yet to climb back to the levels reached in 2000. The only other spirits category to show any growth was bitters, although this was less than 1% and the strong performance of Pernod Ricard's Ramazzotti Amaro served to emphasise the strong competition local brands face from imports.

FABs successes are blamed for helping push liqueurs and cocktails volumes below eight million cases for first time in 2002. The category is particularly losing out among consumers who want a low strength fruit flavoured drink. At the same time Schnapps, the third largest category, is shedding up to half a million cases a year and Canadean warns, flavoured schnapps may ultimately be completely overrun by FABs.

One category where the full influence of FABs has yet to be felt is rum and cane spirits. Cachaca maintained its growth in 2002, but has yet to realise its potential as a drink for those who want an exotic alternative to FABs. White rum by contrast is generally preferred as a mixer base and may yet benefit from the growth of rum based FABs.