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The liqueur and speciality spirits brands to watch in 2019

Liqueurs and speciality spirits such as vermouth and aquavit have stepped into the spotlight as consumers seek longer, lighter serves. These are the brands SB believes are ones to watch in the category in the coming year.

With trends such as low­-alcohol drinks and the current coffee craze, liqueurs have really started to shine. The increasing number of alternatives available and a move towards natural ingredients as consumers adopt healthier lifestyles has made the industry more exciting than ever.

The global liqueurs sector is predicted to grow to 983 million litres in 2018, up from 970m in 2017, according to Euromonitor, as drinking trends turn in its favour.

Mark de Witte, CEO of Dutch drinks group De Kuyper, says: “2018 has been an exciting year for the liqueurs category. As the cocktail scene continues to grow, the role of liqueurs gains importance.” De Kuyper highlights the trend for speciality liqueurs, such as coffee­-flavoured expressions. The group tapped into the craze with the recent launch of Bebo coffee liqueur, which “creates the perfect Espresso Martini”.

The group is also “addressing the premiumisation trend” with its Cherry Heering and Mandarine Napoleon brands.

Many brands are engaging consumers with interesting product extensions that align with current trends. Spain-­based Zamora Company, the producer of Licor 43, launched Licor 43 Orochata, a vegetable­-based liqueur that contains no cream. Bottled at an abv strength of 16%, the expression has been created to meet demand for low­-alcohol offerings.

Edging close to 7m cases in 2017, Diageo­ owned cream liqueur Baileys is the biggest player in the liqueurs category. The brand’s growth was attributed to its most recent marketing effort, which aimed to position the Irish cream liqueur as an “adult treat” and open up more drinking occasions for consumers to enjoy the product.

Meanwhile, there has been an extraordinary surge of interest in bitter flavours, taking Italian spirits and the aperitivo hour global, driven by the low­-alcohol movement and al fresco dining. If proof was needed, in the first nine months of 2018, Campari Group’s Aperol brand grew by an astonishing 31%, driven by its core markets – Italy, Germany and Austria.

Germany is also keen on its own bitters, with Underberg being the nation’s strongest brand by market share. It also benefits from the US cocktail scene, with bartenders increasingly experimenting with the product. “From our point of view, herbs are not as easy to mix as gin, rum or vodka. But we see more and more bartenders who love the challenge,” says a brand management spokesperson from Semper idem Underberg AG.

Vermouth has also attracted the attention of bigger drinks firms this year. William Grant & Sons made its move into the category with the launch of a sweet vermouth infused with cascara, called Discarded. Meanwhile, Diageo acquired Belsazar vermouth in March – the drinks giant’s first apéritif brand.

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


Diageo bought German vermouth brand Belsazar this year to strengthen its position in apéritif ­drinking occasions, as the demand for lower­-abv cocktails gathers pace. The UK-­based firm plans to accelerate the brand’s growth throughout Europe, and looks poised to play a key role in cocktail menus throughout next year.

De Kuyper

Dutch liqueurs brand De Kuyper has added a string of new products to its stable over the past three years to execute its strategy to ‘own the cocktail’. The ambition has seen the group acquire brands and develop new expressions to tap into evolving cocktail trends. 2019 looks set to be a busy year for De Kuyper, with six new products already in the pipeline.

Regal Rogue

Mark Ward, Regal Rogue founder, is seeking investment to support the brand’s global expansion plans as he looks to “disrupt the vermouth category”. Regal Rogue is looking to develop its presence in the UK, US, Nordics and Australia, and recently launched its portfolio of four vermouths in Waitrose stores across the UK. Could a big drinks group be about to swoop in? Watch this space.

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