Master of Malt revenue up 23% in 2019

31st January, 2020 by Nicola Carruthers

Online retailer Master of Malt has reported revenue grew by 23% in 2019, led by mezcal, spiced rum and American whiskeys, excluding Bourbon.

Master of Malt said consumers are moving away from familiar spirits categories

Master of Malt said its mezcal sales grew by 31% in volume terms last year, driven by trade accounts, which drove volumes up by 51%, mainly boosted by small brands. Sales of mezcal made using rare agave species grew 37% for the retailer.

Rum was up by 51% in 2019, due to spiced and flavoured variants. According to Master of Malt’s buyer, Guy Hodcroft, 15 of the top 20 best-selling rums in retail were spiced or flavoured. These brands are priced between £20-£27.50 (US$26-US$36), showing there’s space for rums above £30 (US$39), he noted.

Hodcroft also said the rum category was facing the challenge of authenticity, as more British bottled brands hit the market.

The retailer also said it had noticed a “ramping up of interest in other American whiskies”, besides Bourbon.

Sales for American whiskey styles including rye, corn and single malt soared by 62% last year. Master of Malt added that “customer excitement, especially around unusual cask types or unconventional ageing techniques, looks set to continue into 2020”.

Vodka witnessed a 36% growth in 2019, with 10% of the best-selling products being flavoured. Smaller vodka brands, often British brands, grew 54%.

When it comes to world whisky, Hodcroft said the retailer is seeing “more sales and availability of whiskies from Sweden, France, Finland, Israel, India and England”. He also noted that consumers are collecting the first releases from these distilleries and that there has been “incredible interest” in English brands such as Bimber Distillery, The Cotswolds Distillery and Spirit of Yorkshire.

Gin fatigue

Master of Malt saw Calvados sales grow by 40% while aquavit increased by 27%, the latter of which has been boosted by distilleries around the world creating their own iterations of the Scandinavian spirit. Hodcroft also said that aquavit is benefitting from its use in cocktails, brands with contemporary branding, and “gin fatigue” in the on-trade.

Liqueurs also increased by 31%, driven by gin liqueurs – including those made with the flavours of childhood sweets.

Hodcroft also said that consumers are buying more traditional products such as Frangelico, Grand Marnier and Bénédictine.

Master of Malt’s first stock of hard seltzer in January 2020 also sold out in 24 hours.

“The increased customer interest in more niche categories confirms the general food and drink trend for new experiences,” said Kristiane Sherry, editor of the Master of Malt Blog. “What’s different for 2020 is the striking move away from more familiar categories, such as Bourbon, into the more fledgling ryes and American single malts, for example.

“Looking to the rest of 2020, tapping into this exploratory nature will be key for harnessing and accelerating growth. With our huge range of genuinely niche and exciting products, we’ll be able to help our trade partners better tap into this, too.”

Master of Malt has also promoted Jason Hockman to the position of general manager. Hockman joined the retailer from Tesco in July 2019, and was appointed general manager in December.

Hockman will lead the development of drinks e-commerce innovations across the Master of Malt portfolio, including the extended range, the trade division, and partnerships including marketplaces.

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