Rum should stick with clubbers, says Bacardi exec

12th May, 2014 by Amy Hopkins

Premiumisation in the rum category is not sustainable to due an inability to produce an adequate amount of aged stocks, according to a former Bacardi executive.


Bacardi’s Chris Searle has claimed that the mass market presents better opportunities for rum than premiumisation

Speaking at last week’s The Distillers City Debate, hosted by The Worshipful Company of Distillers in London, Chris Searle, now retired director of Northern Europe and Asia at Bacardi, argued against the motion that “the future of rum lies with connoisseurs, not clubbers”.

For Searle, “age is an issue” which could hinder the premiumisation of rum, and the category should instead further its position in the emerging middle class markets, particularly among “aspirational” young clubbers.

“The skill of rum lies in blending and not in creating bottles with age statements, which is a big challenge for distillers,” said Searle.

He added that this difficulty derives from the fact that many rum distilleries are based in countries with hot climates, meaning that if rum is left to age for a significant amount of time, this can be very costly due to evaporation.

“Rum producers struggle to create plenty of extra aged bottlings because of the angel’s share, and age statements are often key to selling expensive drinks. The rum hierarchy is not understood by consumers – its story is more interesting than age.”

Searle also claimed that if producers focused mainly on innovating at the “top end”, then they will miss out on the opportunities in the mass market.

“Clubbers there are many, but connoisseurs, there are few,” he said. “The number of middle class people in the emerging markets is growing, and this is a huge opportunity for rum.

“Do you want to back brands with mass market appeal or the connoisseur who wants to save rums rather than drink them? Surely the cosy male elitist world is not right for rum?”

During the debate, Searle was arguing against Diageo’s Western Europe marketing and innovation director Ed Pilkington, who claimed premiumisation in rum could bring the category “back to its roots”.

Guests at the debate voted in favour of Searle’s argument against the statement that “the future of rum lies with connoisseurs, not clubbers”.

One Response to “Rum should stick with clubbers, says Bacardi exec”

  1. Robert Burr says:

    Not one or the other. Rum needs to develop on multiple fronts. The quality rums are setting a new tone for the upper range of rum, which was sorely lacking. Rum has long been considered ordinary and uninteresting. Quality rums are changing this perception — while not turning large numbers — they are turning perceptions broadly. Meanwhile, rum is also improving at the low end of the spectrum. The quality of affordable rum is on the rise, evermore produced by distilleries that have greatly improved their techniques, equipment, methods, efficiencies, environmental impact and packaging. In emerging markets, rum must be seen as desirable, accessible, interesting and fun. Aspirational expressions must draw attention toward a brand’s range and spotlight their talents and reputation. Over time, consumers are encouraged to move up the ladder of quality toward better products. In the rum pyramid, there must be both legendary products at the upper tier and popular products across the broad base.

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