The rum category has ‘lost its soul’ in nightclubs

9th May, 2014 by Amy Hopkins

The rum category has “lost its soul” over the past 20 years but premiumisation could “bring it back to its roots”, says one Diageo executive.

Ed-Pilkington-Diageo-rum-debate

According to Diageo’s Ed Pilkington, the rum category has “lost is soul” in nightclubs

Speaking at yesterday’s The Distillers City Debate, hosted by The Worshipful Company of Distillers in London, Ed Pilkington, marketing and innovation director for Diageo’s Western Europe business, argued “the future of rum lies with connoisseurs, not clubbers”.

For Pilkington, rum has “fallen behind” spirits categories such as whisky and Cognac due to its “devaluing” association with the international nightclub scene.

“There’s a huge opportunity for premiumisation in the rum due to an increasing connoisseurship in the category,” he said.

“The stories and history of rum are crucial for its future, but over the past 20 years, there has been an explosion of the clubbing scene, which has caused rum to lose its soul and become a commodity for high energy occasions.

“This has caused rum to be devalued and belittled in the eyes of the consumer.”

Pilkington added that during this time, rum has attempted to imitate vodka, ultimately failing since “vodka is better at being vodka”.

Rum producers have been seeking to increase their luxury image in recent years, providing a greater array of extra-aged expressions designed for sipping.

It is this premiumisation and “innovation at the top end”, Pilkington says, which will allow the category to grow in terms of value.

“Premium rum has to be the next big thing for the industry,” he added. “We need rum to succeed at the top end.”

“At the moment, rum has not premiumised like other spirits categories. It’s quality cues are not as recognisable to consumers due to its association with clubbing. It’s fun and democratic, but not special.”

Drawing on Diageo’s aged Zacapa Rum, which comes in 15-year-old, 23-year-old and XO bottlings, Pilkington concluded that is the “stories and histories” of rum which will help market a more premium image.

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