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Rum brands to watch in 2020

Sales of rum broke the £1 billion (US$1.3bn) barrier in the UK this year and the category could be set to ride the flavour wave in 2020. We predict which brands will be the talk of the sector in the coming 12 months.

The fire that hit Rémy Cointreau’s Mount Gay Rum distillery in Barbados at the start of this year may have been seen as a bad omen, but the rum category was in rude health in 2019.

“We have seen rum reinventing itself as a highly fashionable spirit on a global scale,” says Nick Blacknell, international marketing director at Havana Club. “This is thanks to product innovation and brand experimentation, which continue to boost the potential for the rum category to grow year‐on‐year.”

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) reported that rum sales in the UK surpassed £1bn (US$1.3bn) in the 12 months to June 2019. The figures found white rum to be the most popular rum style in the off‐trade, but the trade body predicted that by the end of 2019 flavoured and spiced rums will knock that style off the top spot as the most popular in the sector.

And it’s a trend the big players are already jumping on. Earlier this year, Christian Barré, Havana Club CEO, told SB that “flavours are of interest” to his brand.

Other producers looking to capitalise on the movement were Amsterdam‐based Spirited Union Distillery and Scotland’s BrewDog Distilling Co. Both launched botanical rums this year, with BrewDog Distilling Co managing director David Gates claiming the category will provide a segue for new rum drinkers.

“We think there is an interesting bridge between gin, which is a category that is well understood,” Gates says. “A lot of people are asking when that bubble is going to burst and where are people going to divert their attention if it does. Strategically, creating bridge between people that understand the language of gin and transferring that to rum could be helpful.”

With sub‐categories including white, un‐aged, flavoured and spiced, consumers could be forgiven for their confusion when faced with a rum list. But in 2019, spirits retailer The Whisky Exchange and its sister wholesale business Speciality Drinks sought to offer drinkers a better understanding of the category with a new classification system.

Divided into six sections, including single traditional pot still and blended traditionalist, Sukhinder Singh, co‐founder of The Whisky Exchange and Speciality Drinks, said the system was about “the long term” and “laying the foundations” for consumers to have a better understanding of the category.

Havana Club’s Blacknell believes consumer understanding and further education will encourage premiumisation in the category. He says: “Consumers are showing greater interest in top‐end and flavoured spirits, thus offering rum a chance to grow. Education, regulations and innovation in this category are vital to ensure that more discerning drinkers around the world view Havana Club and the rum industry in general as the finest premium spirits that are available today.”

According to Euromonitor, in 2018 global rum sales were at 150.9m nine‐litre cases, and the analyst predicts this will rise to 152.9m cases by the end of 2019, and 154.7m cases by the end of 2020. Value growth for the category is expected to rise from US$28.9bn in 2018 to US$31.6bn in 2020.

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

Captain Morgan

After posting steady sales in 2017 and 2018, according to Brand Champions data, Captain Morgan saw its sales dip in Diageo’s 2019 fiscal year.

As the world’s largest spirit producer strives to transform the fortunes of its key rum brand, Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes says he expects trajectory to improve since the company has “good insights and good plans”.

Trois Rivières

Italian spirits firm Campari Group continued its string of acquisitions this year with the purchase of French firm Rhumantilles, owner of the Trois Rivières agricole rum brand.

Campari said the brand had a “strong presence in France and potential for international growth” at the time of the acquisition, valued at €60m (US$66m).

Dead Man’s Fingers

UK‐based Halewood International acquired Cornish rum brand Dead Man’s Fingers in 2018 and has since unveiled an updated bottle, launched new flavoured variants and created a CBD‐infused rum.

Despite a campaign for the brand’s CBD bottling being banned for linking alcohol to illicit drugs, the brand looks set to further disrupt the flavoured and spiced rum category

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