So Hot They’re Cool


The sun came out last month, and licensees around the country will be hoping that the good weather will continue into July and August at the very least, because as we all know good weather makes it a good summer for sales. Jamie Allan takes a look at some familiar summer brands as well as others hoping to enjoy their moment in the sun.

As soon as the sun comes out we all know sales of cider, long drinks and beer go up. People want to be refreshed and where better to quench your thirst than your local pub or bar. However the challenge for licensees is to offer a point of difference that will see customers coming through their doors and often that is due to the brands they have on the bar.

Firstly customers in the summer want a cold drink… and Heineken’s Extra Cold fount is certainly eyecatching. Licensees that have been lucky enough to get an instal have seen significant uplift in sales. Although extra cold draught variants are nothing new, Heineken Extra Cold goes that extra mile. Dispensing the lager from a frozen fount, it is actually encased in ice! The beer in the line is cooled twice as fast and kept just above its freezing point.

One bar serving Heineken Extra Cold is Teuchter’s Landing in Edinburgh, and owner John Tindall told DRAM that the distinctive serve has had a huge boost on sales. He said, “It’s been fantastic, we’ve had the Extra Cold tap in for two months now, and sales of Heineken have literally trebled. We freeze the glasses too, and it’s flying out the door. The schooner glass has proven very popular as well, it’s been a bit like Australia with all of our customers saying that a full pint gets too warm in the sun! It’s great to see a big brand invest in their product instead of resting on their laurels.”

However what we don’t have in abundance are beer slushies…that’s taking cold beer to a new level. Beer slushies is basically frozen beer served at minus seven degrees Celsius. The craze, which started in Japan, moved to the US, and the beer is now available here, albeit only at Yo Sushi in London. Japanese beer brand Kirin (they developed the serve) is poured into a machine that chills the beer and turns it into a slush. A separate beer is then poured, which the machine then uses to create the beer’s slushie puppy head. They say the frozen top keeps the beer extra cold in hot weather for an estimated 30 minutes longer than normal.

Another beer brand which aims to increase sales this summer is Spanish brand Estrella Damm, who have launched the beer in 330ml cans. The cans chill quicker in fridges than bottles, and like schooner glasses are less likely to overstay their welcome in the sun than a pint of draught Estrella.

Low alcohol beer has been tried again and again, but to no avail. Scots consumers have been slow off the mark, prefering in some instances to trade down to a half pint, rather than order a full pint of lower ABV lager. But it seems like lemon is the preferred flavour for low alcohol beers these days (known on the continent as radlers). Tennent’s, Scotland’s most successful lager brand is putting its weight behind Lemon T (2.8% ABV) which was originally just launched in the off-trade, but it is now available in the on-trade, and Heineken launched its Radler last year.

Paul Condron, Marketing Director for Tennent Caledonian, told DRAM, “Research has shown us that almost two thirds of drinkers are open to low alcohol options and whilst the market isn’t huge at the moment, it’s growing. Given the potential for growth in this area, operators should consider stocking low alcohol alternatives alongside their staple stock options to give consumers more choice.”

It’s not just beer sales that go off the scale in the summer, but cider sales have been winner for licensees over the last decade.

Say Market analysts Mintel, “Three in five adults now drink cider and while apple continues to dominate sales, the market is evolving beyond this and pear into flavoured ciders. Fruit-flavoured ciders continue to drive growth, with brands such as Kopparberg and Rekorderlig posting strong sales. 2013 also saw the market leader, Strongbow, move beyond apple and pear with the Dark Fruit variant, a move which has helped it to retain market share.”

This summer Kopparberg is putting particular emphasis on the brand’s Elderflower and Lime and Cloudberry variants; a £4m advertising campaign has been launched to support the flavours, which also feature quirky serves to help distinguish them in the category (as well as folk with quirky beards – bang on trend). It also offers Elderflower and Lime with a suggested serve of slices of cucumber, while Cloudberry is intended to be served up with pink grapefruit, though how many bars will be willing to carry spare pink grapefruit on their back-bar remains to seen.

Ben Turner, Customer Marketing Manager for Kopparberg, told DRAM, “Cider is most certainly becoming an all year round drink but don’t discount the power of a bit of warm weather and some sunshine. Last year Kopparberg saw dramatic growth in Scotland. In July there was a 140% increase on equivalent 2012 sales which was almost matched in August when we achieved 116% increase! Scots have gone for the brand in a big way which is great to see.”

He continues, “Elderflower is a big consumer trend right now, and we’re well placed to exploit it with our Elderflower & Lime variant, which tastes delicious with a slice of cucumber. We are also driving distribution of our Cloudberry variant this year. Cloudberry is a Nordic berry which is harvested in the autumn to make summer cider and goes fantastically well with a wedge of pink grapefruit.”

Magners, for years the cider of choice for Scottish drinkers, is facing an uphill battle particularly with all the new variants available. But this summer it is fighting back. The new Magners Summer Nights festival is being held in August at the Kelvingrove Bandstand. It will run across two weekends in August (7th-10th and 14th-16th) and includes performances by Alison Moyet, The Waterboys, Steve Earle, Squeeze, Capercaillie, Teenage Fanclub. The 2,500 capacity bandstand has only just opened after a £2m refurbishment.

The festival will feature a Magners Village incorporating a cider garden and premium street food with areas to relax. So the brand will definitely be making a splash in the west.

Paul Condron, comments, “2014 is an incredible year for Glasgow, a city that rightly enjoys a great reputation for music. We’re sure that Magners Summer Nights will add to this reputation and we’re delighted to bring such a strong line up of UK and international artists to the Kelvingrove Bandstand. It’s great to see the beautifully refurbished venue being used for such high profile events for the people of Glasgow and beyond. We’re already looking forward to these warm summer evenings with a cold Magners in hand, surrounded by good friends and great music.”

Carling Cider picked up the coveted Gold Award in the Cider category at the International Brewing Awards 2013 and is looking to capitalise on this success this summer. It promotes itself as  “The most refreshing British cider…” Cheeky, but say the company, true according to research it had carried out by SPA Future thinking which had a sample size 600 adults. It’s certainly visible with 48-sheet billboards across the country.

Moving on to spirits and cocktails the brands making an impact with colder serves include Disaronno. It is heavily promoting its Disaronno Sour serve. The cocktail, comprised of Disaronno, fresh lemon juice and sugar syrup shaken and served over crushed ice, is an easy to mix drink that is scheduled to receive a major promotion push over the next few months. The brand are hosting a series of rooftop parties in as-yet undisclosed venues in Scotland, featuring cocktail masterclasses from leading mixologists and encouraging consumers to create their own twist on the Sour. Sam Bovill, Brand Manager at First Drinks, told DRAM, “Disaronno is performing well in the Scottish market, up 21% in volume and 16% in value, making it the UK’s number one premium non-cream liqueur in the on-trade. The Disaronno Terrace activity is designed to bring consumers closer to our signature serve, the Disaronno Sour and the party will come to Scotland from Wednesday 27th August through to Wednesday 17th September.

“We’ve made huge progress with the trade, and now we’re looking to raise the Disaronno Sour’s profile with consumers ahead of the key summer period, establishing it as a classic yet on-trend cocktail that tastes great and meets the needs of its target market.”

It’s encouraging to see whisky brands too making an effort to increase sales all year round. Whisky may have traditionally been seen as a drink for colder months but Glasgow malt Auchentoshan is attempting to change people’s perceptions and is being promoted as a summer serve. Brand Manager Nick Barker told DRAM, “The summer lends itself to a very different drinking occasion and many drinking habits change and adapt to this. Cocktails are always hugely popular in the summer months and Auchentoshan lends itself to a number of refreshing cocktails such as the Whisky-a-Lo-Lo which is made using fresh fruit such as oranges, lemons, apples and limes with ginger and mint – a perfect summer cocktail.

“The Whisky A Lo-Lo combines ginger infused Auchentoshan Classic with Ginger Beer, and a mixture of fruit and mint leaves which bring out the citrus flavours of the triple distilled Auchentoshan Classic.”

Keglevich is also attempting to tackle preconceptions of what makes a good summer cocktail. Produced from vodka and comprised of real fruit, the 20% ABV Italian liqueur comes in seven different flavour variants and is now being promoted as an ideal base for cocktails. Director of Keglevich Steve Howard told DRAM, “For outlets who want to sell cocktails but don’t employ mixologists or necessarily have 15 minutes to spare for mixing drinks Keglevich works as a basis for simple, but great quality cocktails. It can also be used for cocktail pitchers, and makes an excellent alternative to Pimms.”

Another company keen to make it easier for licensees to sell cocktails this summer is Haywood owned Shatler’s Pre Mixed Cocktails. The name says it all. These pre-mixed cocktails which are ready to serve in just 6 seconds actually are very nice. The DRAM office can vouch for that – we particularly liked the Pina Colada Shatler’s – and as Pina Colada day is 10th July – it’s a good reason to get them in.

Now to one of the summer classics – gin. It’s also the spirit of the moment according to bartenders. With so many new brands to choose from how can you really make an informed choice? Well, there’s no stocking a few Scottish gins… they are certainly getting good press. Located in an old animal hospital in south Edinburgh, the Summerhall Distillery was the first gin distillery in the city for 150 years and they have recently launched Pickering’s Gin. There is also North Berwick Gin (NB), Caorun, Edinburgh Gin and the newly launched Gordon Castle Gin.

Sloane Gin is also being promoted with Phil Kilpatrick the brand ambassador in Scotland. It was voted the World’s best gin and best white spirit in 2011and it has the reputation of pioneering the method of individually distilling botanicals. The brand owners recommend that it is served with Fevertree tonic, which brings us smoothly onto the rise of premium mixers for premium brands.

Brands such Fevertree and Fentimans provide a premium alternative to the ubiquitous Schweppes, and their natural ingredients are created to complement the spirit.

It’s not just the central belt style bars that are offering premium soft drinks – the likes of Wetherspoons too offers a premium tonic with its pouring gin. In Fraserburgh, Cheers Cafe Bar has a massive range of soft drinks on offer to discerning customers. This includes ten different brands of tonic water. Owner Dennis Forsyth told DRAM, “Our best seller remains Schweppes, though my personal favourite is 1724, a Spanish tonic water. We found that if you’re selling premium spirits then you can’t get away with offering a limited choice of mixers. There are so many great brands out there, but Fevertree in particular is doing extremely well, it really is a top product. Customers have to be educated on these new products though; unless your staff are encouraging them to try an alternative mixer then they simply won’t sell.”

Another premium mixer on the market is Gloworm, whose four different flavours– Raspberry and Orris, Cucumber and Apple, Pear, Spice and Lime, and Ginger and Lemongrass – are tailored to different spirits groups – vodka, gin, bourbon and rum. The brand have recently developed a list of ten signature serves for bars to use in their cocktail lists. Martin Duffy, Director at Solid Liquids Drinks Consultancy says, “Great taste will always take priority and Gloworm tastes great and can be used as an ingredient in a wide variety of serves, from straight mixers, to more elaborate long drinks and creative cocktails.”

Clearly, you won’t go far wrong this summer by sticking with the proven winners, cider, gin and Pimms. However with several brands both old and new trying to establish themselves as summer serves there may well be a culture shift in what consumers are looking for in their warm weather drink of choice.