HMRC and the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) have reported record numbers for UK gin exports, and the industry has reflected this in the rise of popularity of such products, seen in the pink drinks trend.
How should companies capitalise on these figures, and what examples can be taken forward for the rest of the alcohol sector?
FoodBev spoke with Stephen Noblett, food and drink sector specialist at the Department for International Trade, to explore how British gin makers are capitalising on the global ‘ginnaissance’.
What are the fundamental reasons for the rise in UK gin exports?
UK gin producers are world-renowned for their quality. With the ‘ginnaissance’ boosting the spirit’s popularity globally, more consumers are looking for high-quality gin than ever before. Gin distillers across the UK, both large and small, are capitalising on the ‘ginnaissance’ and are taking their products to be enjoyed by new consumers around the world.
At the beginning of 2018, there were 315 distilleries in Britain, more than double the number operating five years previous.
The growth in distilleries here is evidence of increased interest and demand for gin. And as the British gin industry is supported by the historical tradition of making the spirit, global gin drinkers look to the UK’s heritage and artisanship to find their top-quality tipple.
Where does this figure place the UK globally for the gin market?
The UK is the world’s largest exporter of gin – according to the WSTA, three out of four bottles of gin imported around the world come from our shores – and our dominance in the market is growing. During the past year, our gin exports grew to £612 million, up 15% on the previous year.
This is part of a growing trend, with our exports of the spirit more than doubling since 2010. It’s clear that this is due to global taste for our gin.
Which regions are the most interested in UK gin? Can you say why this is?
According to the most recent WSTA statistics released in partnership with HMRC, the United States is the largest single importer of British gin, with sales reaching £191 million last year, up £13 million from 2017.
Despite being a smaller overall market size, the most impressive growth in demand for UK gin has been in South Africa, with the country importing 222% more British gin in 2018 than the previous year. Another notable increase comes from Australia, where imports of UK gin doubled from 2017 to 2018.
It’s clear that these markets are interested in our gin and that our distillers offer a wide range of products across different tastes and price points.
Do you see growth being fostered in other areas of the industry, such as beer and cider exports?
The rise in demand for gin comes at a special moment for the spirit. Consumers are rediscovering classic gin-based cocktails, adding new twists to them and reimagining the use for the spirit in its entirety. For example, a traditional gin and tonic has been elevated with new premium and craft gins mixed with fun and reimagined tonics.
However, the increased demand for British products is not for gin alone. While gin exports are higher than our beer exports, we are witnessing a rise in exports across a number of traditional UK beverages and spirits, with beer and cider being no exception.
Last year we saw British cider makers exporting to over 50 countries around the world. It’s clear that demand for UK-made beverages is up because the world wants our high-quality drinks.
Is it accurate to say that the rise in UK start-ups and craft alcohol has contributed to the rise in gin exports?
Small distillers from across the UK have been crucial to growing the country’s gin market growth. With sales of artisan brands in a major UK supermarket chain up 167% as compared to mass-produced brands rising 30%, it’s evident that smaller, artisanal gin companies are making a clear contribution toward growth in gin sales.
These smaller distillers have greatly added to the richness of our gin market, continuing to keep the UK a global leader in developing high-quality gins that consumers want.
One UK craft distiller that has taken advantage of global demand for our gin is the Cotswolds Distillery, which has seen its export sales grow by 350% since it began exporting in 2015.
To achieve this impressive growth, the company received help from the Food is Great campaign, working with a DIT International Trade Adviser to help navigate the exporting process. After focusing on the US market for its initial foray into exporting, the company now ships its gin to 28 markets around the world including to Australia and Hong Kong.
If the Cotswolds Distillery can achieve export growth success, other British companies can too. For companies curious about exporting, I would suggest that they get in touch with their local DIT office.
Could the health and wellness trend of low-ABV alcohols impact on future gin export figures?
We’re seeing growth in both traditional and new sectors, with British producers embracing both types of products. Whether low-ABV or traditional products, our heritage for quality means that there is a great opportunity for our products around the world.
Stephen Noblett was speaking with FoodBev Media’s Harriet Jachec.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019