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An apple a day keeps the doctor awa y. That ’s what yer’ mammy used to tell you and it’s what your wholesaler and brand owners are telling you. But it’s not just apples their punting, it’s all fruits. Fraser Wilson investigates.

Innovation in the drinks market has almost become synonymous with adding sweet or fruity flavours and the flavoured drinks revolution can be seen when looking at any back bar, whether it’s flavoured spirits, ciders, or beers. So what’s driving the demand for fruit flavoured drinks?
Well, investment in product development is being used by several large industry players as a way to broaden their consumer base.
Women in particular have caught the imagination of PR and marketing teams across the drinks industry, who see them as underrepresented in categories such as whisky and beer.
So attracting more women allows brands to tap into a vast yet under explored market.
But it can’t be that simple can it? It can’t all be about appeasing the women in our lives. From experience, nothing is that simple when it comes to women. But Piero Pieraccini, of Hamishes’ Hoose in Paisley, says it might just be. He told us, “It’s just another way to sell their drinks at the end of the day. It’s mainly to attract women, but I don’t see it making any difference, although we did sell a lot of Kopparberg over the summer. That was mainly the women as well.”
Market researchers, Mintel support this, saying a wide range of drink brands are now vying for female attention, using sweet flavours, girly colours and low-calorie products to get it. And the evidence is out there; infused wines, raspberry-flavoured beer, a multitude of flavoured vodkas, and spiced rums.
Even the Cognac category is working towards encouraging women to board the bandwagon, with Courvoisier developing an elaborate cocktail campaign aimed at being ‘pink’ without being patronising.
Brand manager, Bob Taylor said the popularity of such flavours started with the move away from traditional ciders to well packaged, more modern takes on the apple drink.
He added, “Cider was never really seen as a trendy drink, it wasn’t really for the in crowd. It wasn’t discerning and was pretty mainstream. Once Magners launched into Scotland that’s when it really changed, they started to serve it over ice and it became a ritual almost.
“So people started to see folk drinking it like that and it became trendy. After that flavoured ciders started to come in with pear ciders and it moved from there. They’re trendy, easy to drink, have got good colours and are sold with a sprig of mint, strawberries, even some with cucumber, so they are very trendy all of a sudden.
“They are definitely more discerning than alco-pops.”
Vodka popularity in Scotland has long been acknowledged as unique in the on trade, with more sales per head here than anywhere else in the UK. Indeed, the retail market value of gin and vodka sales in Scotland alone exceeded £400m last year, with vodka case sales of over 1.7m, led by market leader, Smirnoff, who have been actively promoting the likes of apple, black cherry, orange, espresso, and vanilla flavours.
Stolichnaya has just launched a salted caramel flavoured vodka. This is the second in Stoli’s portfolio of flavoured spirits and they believe it is perfect for sipping on the rocks or as a decadent twist to classic cocktails. And for a number of years both Grey Goose and Belvedere have provided fruit flavoured versions of their high end product.
But it’s not just vodka that has gone down the added flavour route – even American whiskey can’t escape the treatment, with Jim Beam Red Stag and Jack Daniels Honey leading the flavoured whisky market.
Like in any walk of life, drinks fads have a shelf life. But as our addiction to sweet flavours continues to develop, will this fad go away?
One thing for sure is it has not been universally well received by those in the trade. Stuart McCluskey told us his Bon Vivant bar / restaurant in Edinburgh does not stock any flavoured gins, whisky, or vodka, saying he is against the concept. He said, “I would rather flavour the spirit naturally. We don’t stock any of it. It’s basically a more modern approach to alco-pops, it’s a grown up version of trying to get people to stick with the brand.
“It’s about trying to get them to develop their palates and move from drinking flavoured bourbon or gin to drinking natural bourbon and gin.
“I really don’t agree with the flavoured gin concept. I don’t get that. Things like Hendrick’s and what they did was great, because it brought focus back onto gin and how you could do more with it. But I don’t see the point of going through the whole making process to heighten the natural flavours, just to cover that with an additive. “There’s no demand for it here, but I would agree to taste any product if people came to me about it in the right way. If they knew the product and what they were selling. We can’t stock everything and we are always going to be asked for something we don’t have.”
Staff at rum bar, Distill on Argyle St in Glasgow’s Finnieston area, said they saw a massive demand for fruit flavours from a variety of people, but also said they were purists about flavours, especially in line with their cocktails.
They limit their flavoured stock, with just one flavoured vodka, which was infused on site with vanilla.
“We only have two flavours of Kopparberg stocked and one or two traditional ciders. We use a lot of fruit in our cocktails and try to be as natural as possible, so we don’t stock it.
“But there is a huge demand for it. We get asked for it all the time.” The trend is seen nowhere better than in the US, where over a quarter of all vodka consumed in 2012 was flavoured.
Purists like Stuart will no doubt be horrified by this flavour revolution, but drinks companies have decided it makes good business sense to invest in it. This is supported by Mintel’s research into the dark spirits category, which found 61% of consumers say they would try a new flavour if recommended and 32% of respondents saying they are more likely to try a new dark spirit if it is flavoured.
With a reported annual growth of 388%, low-calorie cocktail brand, Skinnygirl has become the fastest growing spirits brand in the US and with flavours like white cherry and margaritas, it has now made an assault on the UK market.
More than 40% of all spirits in the US market have a flavoured version beyond the traditional product, with 122 of 177 vodka products launched there in 2012 flavoured – that accounted for nearly one million cases.
However the real flavoured success story rests with cider. Flavoured ciders are forecast to deliver 80% of all growth in the UK cider category by 2014. The modern packaged cider segment is now worth over £711m and continues to grow as consumers increasingly look to experiment with new flavours.
Brands like Kopparberg, Hornsby’s, Bulmers, Magners, even Strongbow have strong fruit flavoured lines, taking advantage of the new fruit frenzy. Indeed, in just six months, brewers Heineken shipped over four million bottles of Bulmers Cider Bold Black Cherry and Bulmers Cider Pressed Red Grape, securing distribution in over 7,000 on trade outlets.
Heineken fought back against weak sales by introducing a range of “radler” drinks, which mix beer with fruit juice. A low-alcohol Foster’s radler, which includes lemon juice, was introduced in the UK along with more fruit variations of its Bulmers cider brand.
Yet beer sales volumes still dropped by nearly 10% in the UK during the opening six months of the year. It seems, then, consumers have a desire to try something a little different. Five years ago, who honestly would’ve thought they would be drinking an elderflower flavoured cider?
A logical step in many respects when you think elderflower wine and cordial were already a staple behind many bars, and on most shop shelves. When Kopparberg channelled the idea of a perrier into one of the first commercially accessible pear ciders on the market, the idea of traditional cider instantly changed.
Indeed Kopparberg last month revealed huge sales growth over the summer months, with the brand experiencing a significant increase in sales compared to the same time last year. And nowhere more so than here in Scotland which saw a 140% uplift in sales.
Kopparberg UK sales director, Adrian Hirst told DRAM,“This year has already proved to be an extraordinary year for us. This success is not possible without the continued support of our on trade customers. “The Scots really go for the brand in a big way, which is great to see.”
But Paul Condron from Tennent Caledonian believes the trend is slowing toward a decline, with packaged fruit cider in the on trade already having peaked in Scotland. Indeed he said this was down at -12% MAT. He told us, “The burst of new flavours available to publicans has clearly done a good job in re-engaging drinkers with cider, but we would suggest it is now time for some fresh thinking around innovation to help reinvigorate both flavoured and apple cider in an interesting way. The craft beer category is a good example, with producers using clever innovation across serve, provenance and occasion to drive trial, profile and volume in the on-trade.
Cider can learn from this approach and that is one of the reasons why we have recently launched the American cider brand Hornsby’s into the UK on-trade, with the brand already showing signs of real success in its early months in trade.”
Hornsby’s is lower carbonation giving drinkers a smoother drink than many modern ciders. It is also designed to be drunk cold, straight from the bottle as a single hand serve, making it perfect for a range of different occasions.
Paul added, “Whilst flavour continues to be part of our cider portfolio and its development, we are working hard to bring innovative and engaging new ideas to the bar for our customers and drinkers in the long term.” Craig Robertson, drinks buyer at Inverarity Morton agrees cider makers are leading the way on flavour innovation with longevity.
He added, “As we move into autumn/winter, we’ll expect to see an increase in sales of the darker berry styles and Rekorderlig will again bring out their winter cider, which is served warm. The ciders are the ones with staying power in this area, because they’ve answered a legitimate lifestyle need: cider is no longer just a summertime drink – they have opened up the category to a much wider consumer demographic.
“Younger people and more women are switching on to it and cider has the added ‘shareability’ factor between genders. Elsewhere, fruit-flavoured products come and go in line with key trends.”
However, Craig said the company didn’t see an increased demand for flavoured vodkas / spirits, supporting the stance taken by Stuart at the Bon
Vivant. He added, “More and more bartenders are adopting a ‘purist’ approach to cocktail making, using a clean spirit and then mixing it with fresh fruit juice or puree for a more natural flavour result.”
So yer’ mammy, your wholesaler, and even your doctor all seem to be in agreement that fruit is good for you – and it will be good for business too. The summer months may be a distant memory, but the appeal of fruit flavoured options seems to have grabbed the female and younger market and don’t seem likely to go into hibernation, with mulled wine and winter berry flavoured ciders likely to be in high demand in the winter months.

Category: Features
Tags: bulmers, cider, Flavour, Inverarity Morton, Jack Daniels, Kopparberg, Magners, smirnoff, Stoli, Strongbow, vodka