Tequila has a ‘long runway of opportunity’ ahead

22nd January, 2018 by Melita Kiely
Over a barrel: Patrón Tequila

Over a barrel: Patrón Tequila


Applbaum admits sustainability is something Patrón should have better communicated since its inception, but insists the brand has made the issue a priority since the start. “A lot of super­-premium spirits are just marketing drivel, marketing fluff, and their care for the environment isn’t something they really focus on – but it’s something we have, since day one, been very, very focused on,” he stresses.

“It’s our own fault; we have never talked about our sustainability efforts as boldly as we should have. Despite the swagger of our brand, we’ve been very humble about certain aspects of what we do, but increasingly as consumers and trade care about this, we’ve realised it is something we’re very proud of internally and it’s OK to share that, to make the data available, particularly now that it’s such an important cause to many consumers.”

With a broad audience to cater for and a new wave of drinkers finding enjoyment in Tequila, brands are looking outwards from the category’s biggest market, the US, to propagate the category’s success. Ingwersen-Matthiesen has her sights set on Germany as an emerging Tequila market. “In Germany, this curiosity about Tequila is also supported by the flourishing Mexican food scene, for the Mexican kitchen is increasingly popular,” she explains. “Mexican restaurants offer an intriguing space to familiarise with the Mexican tradition, culture and, of course, Tequila.”

For Herradura’s Tichenor, travel retail, Australia, Spain and the UK are proving particularly prosperous and are currently the fastest growing markets for the Tequila brand. “While still quite small compared with Mexico and the US, the longterm opportunity is significant as consumers continue to expand their taste profiles and look for new spirits to enjoy,” he says.

But there’s another trend Tichenor has noticed recently, that of traditional vodka drinkers switching to Tequila – most of whom are entering the category through silver or blanco expressions, but with an eagerness to “experiment” with aged editions as their palates and knowledge develop. “We’ve seen the largest influx of new consumers coming from vodka, particularly in the US,” notes Tichenor. “As Tequila grows beyond shots, consumers appreciate the quality of 100%­agave Tequila as a sippable, mixable spirit.”

But in Mexico, the opposite is true; consumers are ditching reposado Tequilas in favour of blanco bottlings as they seek lighter options. The diversity of trends between nations gives Tichenor faith that Tequila has a “long runway of opportunity” ahead. So does that mean Tequila’s shot culture is dead? Far from it – it’s not even really injured. While the category may be moving away from its party persona of yesteryear and into a new, more sophisticated cocktail-sipping phase of existence, there is still an indomitable shot market to be found. “The distinctive Sierra shot ritual is focused, whereas the use of Tequila in outstanding cocktail creations is also of significance in promoting Sierra globally,” says Ingwersen-Matthiesen. “No matter which country, we follow consistent communication that highlights the traditional Tequila shot, as well as its potential for the mixology scene, thanks to a wide range of flavour profiles.”

Herradura’s Tichenor also sees growth potential in Tequila shots, even for super-premium expressions, while recognising the advantages of cocktail culture. “How to drink is an exciting opportunity for Tequila because it is such a versatile spirit,” he says. “While shots and Margaritas are still significant volume opportunities within the super-premium category, global mixology trends are expanding the consumer’s Tequila occasions.”

Sip it neat, shoot it, or stir it into a cocktail – as awareness of Tequila’s versatility grows, is the category risking its success with a potentially convoluted message? “They say that variety is the spice of life,” says Applbaum. “I would challenge anybody on the versatility of Tequila versus any other spirit. The strong will survive – and the strong aren’t just large; they’re those that are committed to quality in the long term. They’ll be the ones ensuring Tequila’s success.”

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