The liqueur brands to watch in 2018

21st December, 2017 by Amy Hopkins

Liqueurs may have experienced a torrid time in recent years, but as interest in cocktails and mixed drinks grows, a number of brands are preparing to add vibrancy to the category in 2018.

In general, liqueurs tends to be one of the most volatile segments in terms of trends,” Spiros Malandrakis, senior analyst at Euromonitor, said earlier this year.

This may be true, and many of the world’s leading liqueur brands have struggled to retain volume growth in the face of shifting trends, but Euromonitor’s forecast figures convey a healthy picture. In 2017, the data analyst believes the liqueurs category will add six million litres to its volume sales, hitting a global total of 976.7m litres.

One could argue that pertinent consumer trends, such as demand for lower-sugar alternatives and ‘lighter’ taste profiles, are restricting the pace of the liqueur category’s growth. But liqueurs have another advantage that fits in with an emerging consumer penchant – low abvs.

“Consumers are looking for alcoholic beverages with lower abvs and strong flavours – this is an excellent opportunity for us to keep introducing Riga Black Balsam in new markets,” Maris Kalnins, the firm’s global brand director told SB this year. The brand’s new cherry-flavoured liqueur will become part of its core portfolio after witnessing rapid sales growth. In 2018, the product will make its way into duty-free airport outlets in Russia, the UK, Italy and Scandinavia.

Craig Greenberg, head of strategic planning and insight at William Grant & Sons, maker of Drambuie, also told SB: “The low-abv space is one of the most fruitful places for innovation, and we are going to see all kinds of products coming out to meet consumer demands.

“Consumers are becoming more adventurous with flavour profiles, and liqueurs play a really important role in complex, interesting drinks. We are seeing more challenging flavours, and with that hand in hand go liqueurs.”

As well as appealing to lower-strength drinks fans, Baileys – the world’s biggest liqueurs brand – has broadened its appeal with the launch of a vegan line extension: Baileys Almande. In June 2016, the brand’s owner, Diageo, unveiled a dairy-free and gluten-free variant of Baileys. Product testing, however, found Baileys Almande contained a derivative of beeswax and honey, making it unsuitable for vegans. Come March 2017 and both had been omitted from the expression, granting the product ‘certified vegan’ status in the US.

Travel retail is one of the channels where Diageo is highlighting Baileys Almande. In 2016, duty-free liqueurs sales increased by 1.4% to 2.14m nine-litre cases, according to the IWSR. Andrea Baumgartner, head of marketing, global travel retail, at Amarula producer Distell, this year said: “The competition in the liqueurs segment is especially fierce, due, in part, to the entry of so many flavoured whiskies trying to take share.”

Looking beyond liqueurs, the craze for bitters also continues globally, with Aperol increasing sales by 22% in the first half of this year. Its stablemate, Campari, also posted solid gains. The Italian apéritif moment is seemingly spilling out into ‘retro’ categories such as vermouth, anis and pastis.

Click through the following pages to see which liqueur brands we believe are ones to watch in the year ahead.

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