ProWein 2012 - Trade article series: Spirits Trends: The Path towards Individuality

Every March, ProWein, leading international Trade Fair Wines and Spirits, is the meeting point and business platform for the international wine and spirits sector. Suppliers from all the internationally-relevant wine-growing nations present themselves to trade visitors from all over the world in Düsseldorf. The spirits section at ProWein has also grown in recent years and the prospects for 2012 are once again the best: over 300 suppliers are presenting their broadly structured range, including international market leaders as well as smaller producers and importers, who are showing exceptional new products and regional-specific treasures. Above and beyond that, spirit treasures from all over the world will be found on many wine stands. In addition, the FIZZZ Lounge will be picking up current trends on the spirits scene.

 

Spirits consumption by international comparison
According to ifo, Institute for Economic Research (Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung e.V.), the official per-capita spirits consumption in Germany in 2010 was 5.4 litres (in terms of finished products), thus remaining at the previous year’s level. At the start of 1991 Germany’s per-capita consumption of spirits was however still as high as 7.5 litres. In pure statistical terms, spirits are registering a continual decline not only in Germany but also in most other western countries. According to studies by the International Wine & Spirit Record (IWSR), by international comparison, Germany’s per-capita spirits consumption is in mid-division in terms of consumers. With 5.4 litres compared to other European countries, the Federal Republic ranked 18th in 2009. By worldwide comparison, Germany ranks 41st, way behind leader South Korea which leads the field with 24.8 litres. Currently, the strongly growing alcohol markets are most likely to be found in the Asian region anyway, whereby naturally emerging nations with large populations such as China and India are increasingly attracting the interest of the spirits producers.

Mixed spirits making inroads
The GfK Consumer Tracking, an international market research institute, can produce figures which show the range attained by different types of spirits in 2010. All the mix-relevant spirits registered an increase. In particular rum variations reached a lot more people than in previous years. But gin, tequila, vodka and bourbon were also popular with an increasing number of consumers. There is a decline in spirits which are drunk pure. These are all trends and tendencies, which can be underlined for Western countries by the IWSR, but also by Internet platforms such as Drinks International (drinksint.com) and Just Drinks (just-drinks.com). The Asian market in turn is beginning to discover quality premium products for itself. It would therefore definitely not be out of place to concentrate on mixed spirits when looking to the future.

For international experts the small authentic producers are the leaders
One of today's most travelled spirits and cocktail expert's, Gary Regan, does not have to think long when he is asked about current trends: “Rum, rum and rum”. The Englishman, who lives in America, believes that rum is advancing on the international stage at all levels. This is underlined by Simon Webster, Director of the English BarLifeUk online magazine: “In recent years the rise in popularity of rum has been absolutely without precedent, no contest compared to other distillates.” He assumes that Cachaca, “due to its similarity to rum, could be the next drink to experience an upward trend”. Especially when importers can bring some small, good-quality, self-produced, authentic brands to life. Webster, who himself has lived for many years in Australia, not only sees the independent rum brands emerging stronger but also assumes that independent Cachaca brands would have a good chance, he also refers to a similar trend in the Gin segment: “In recent years many small, independent gin variations have come onto the market, a revival which is not only clearly evident in England.” Is this a trend towards micro-distilleries?
Barbara Becker, editor-in-chief FIZZZ Magazine, points out the following trend: “The new products roundabout is turning ever faster, niche products with limited availability are in particular attracting the interest of bar professionals. In order to satisfy the search for new products, major brands are also following up and competing through special editions. At the same time the product life cycles are getting shorter, because when the initial hype is over, it is time for the hour of truth: does the product have the potential to establish itself or will it be swept off the bar by the next newcomer?” She also believes that smaller brands are anchored in this field: “Small Batch fits in with this scenario, because it is used as a refinement strategy, which arouses attention and indicates upgrading. As a strategy of differentiation, it complements previous quality and differentiation criteria such as for example different storage or maturing times.”

The unanimous statement from the exhibitors shows: specialized, authentic producers are of special interest for the spirits industry. Here ProWein has its finger on the pulse of the sector: in addition to renowned key sector players with limited editions, once again many suppliers of exceptional specialities and unusual new products from all over the world are presenting themselves.

Bartenders geared to individuality
But what do the producers think about the current trends? Hubertus Vallendar from the Vallendar destillery also has a similar view: “Within the last 25 years there have been some changes. Despite the declining trend in consumption, niche products are advancing internationally.” In his eyes “the European market is diversifying in this way, especially as it is becoming increasingly important for the consumer to set oneself apart from others using more special articles with a self-produced component. “He would not like to talk about quality in this connection any more at all, because those suppliers who do not have the right quality, do not have to compete at all”. Rob Cooper from Cooper International Spirits has also underlined a clear trend to craftsman’s-based products: “The path to quality has already been embarked upon, now bartenders, connoisseurs and normal consumers want to hear stories of authentic products from people they can reach. In particular bartenders wish to identify with their products and for this purpose try to also get into contact with the producers.” In his opinion further inroads by the modern cocktail culture are unstoppable because “in the USA it is already very present and in Europe too, the mixology level is being reinforced even further.” The clear consequence for him: “In this framework smaller producers will become more well-known. “And what is at least clear, particularly in the Western countries, but also already in Eastern Europe, is that each year micro-distilleries geared to high-quality craftsman's production skills are being built. What Vallendar calls diversification is described by Dr. Stephan Susen, Managing Director of German spirits producer Kreuzritter GmbH, as “fragmentation” and explains: “The markets are increasingly breaking up, even larger producers are trying to position themselves with special, exceptional goods involving the craftsman’s component”. “The experts are”, in his opinion, “already equipped with well-made products, know the stories behind them and know how to use them”. In this connection therefore “the know-how must now still be communicated to the broad masses, to ensure that the consumers also feel like buying the products”.

Overall, it is a trend which is also being directly supported by the bars. Because whoever has acquired craftsman’s skills, is no longer afraid to produce their own syrups, bitters, liqueur and infusions or even cut their own ice diamonds. Subtle, sophisticated manual skills aimed at providing a catering range with the individuality, which is demanded by bartenders and bar owners, but also increasingly by consumers of spirits products. And this trend towards craftsman's enthusiasm will also be shown at ProWein 2012: under the motto “the Do-it-yourself laboratory – Infusions, Bitters & Co.”, the “Alchemists of the catering scene” will be revealing their secret recipes in the FIZZZ Lounge in Hall 7a.

Author Bastian Heuser worked as a bartender and bar manager in Cologne, Frankfurt, London and Berlin. Today he is the Managing Director of Beverage Consulting and the Barworkz Communication Agency and writes as a freelance author for trade publications.

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