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Alcoholic Drinks – May 2013 Overview of New Product Launches

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This monthly summary highlights the most interesting product launches in May, with a focus on the direction the alcoholic drinks industry is taking in terms of innovative developments.

Pimms o’clock

The cascading wave of flavours engulfing the alcoholic drinks industry’s landmark categories is finally hitting its outer reaches. It was, frankly, just a matter of time. Following cider’s and vodka’s pioneering momentum, bourbon’s irreverent and controversial experimentation, dark rum’s spiced ventures and tequila’s and scotch whisky’s shy babysteps under the guise of liqueur offerings, other spirits are belatedly joining the party.

Pimms is more of a British institution than a niche segment. It is, in effect, its own category. Back in the summer of 2010, in an opinion piece that is proving to be prophetic in more ways than one, we succinctly observed; Iconic and based on a recipe that is still shrouded in mystery, synonymous with the summer and tongue-in-cheek preposterously posh references, Pimm's is quintessentially English in the same way that hot weather is not. 

And therein lies the brand’s main problem. As a succession of rain swept summers continues battering an already financially ravaged UK, innovation and organic growth beyond the confines of its country of origin is becoming more pressing than ever. The introduction of tried and tested flavours such as blackberry and elderflower (the recent acquisition of elderflower liqueur St Germaine by Bacardi speaks volumes on the flavour’s relevance and potential)  alongside the adoption of a decidedly nostalgia-tinted design for the new variant, is hence ticking all the right boxes.

Interestingly and somewhat surprisingly, Diageo goes further than that though. Pimms is actually heading south leaving the British shores behind for the first time. Initially launched in Greece and soon to be rolled out in a yet to be specified number of western European markets, the brand is taking a seemingly dangerous gamble.

Southern Europe is not exactly the poster child of macroeconomic buoyancy at this juncture and the majority of players (including Diageo) are rushing for the exits while slashing investments in the region. On the other hand, Pimm’s primary fuel is sunshine, not premiumisation. And it is within that context that this move, on balance, appears to be the correct one. After all, we called it almost three long summers ago:

The brand’s almost unprecedented success unavoidably begs the following question - if Pimm's managed –against all odds – to successfully navigate the ongoing financial volatility, provocatively ignore contemporary trend dividing lines and cheerfully overcome the deluge that is the English summer, why have there been no attempts to introduce it to more welcoming climates?

And what about the sunny continental south? Three parts lemonade, ice, orange, strawberry and mint somehow seem very relevant in the context of the perma-summer Mediterranean coastline. Providing a hint of lucratively healthy and natural attributes, appealing to female consumption at first or using the ubiquitous English tourist influx as a building block to enter these markets are just some of the ways that could be used to build brand momentum. The spirit's relative affordability would only provide an additional incentive. Quintessentially English? Perhaps, but not necessarily.

Blackberry & Elderflower Pimm’s from Diageo

Diageo has launched the first flavoured variant of Pimm’s in the brand’s 190-year history. A mix of Pimm’s No.6 Vodka Cup with blackberry and elderflower, is available in 70cl and one litre formats in both the on- and off-trade with a lemonade premix also available in the off-trade. Diageo commissioned British designer Oliver McAinsh to create a nostalgic label inspired by a British hedgerow in summer. McAinsh ran with the theme, putting a butterfly balancing on a blackberry centre stage.

Diageo has also launched Pimm's in Greece, the first European country to host the liqueur brand outside its home UK market. Pimm's will be available in 3,000 on-trade venues in Greece, while the brand will roll-out to other western European markets later this year.  The launch was supported by a flashmob in one of Athens' main squares and the arrival of the “Pimm’s O’Clock” double-decker British bus that had travelled from London for the event. And will be touring the country for two months.

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