White Spirits: Grey Prospects and Golden Opportunities

Strategy Briefing

About This Report

Apr 2013

While overall white spirits sales appear to have regained some momentum, the diverging fortunes of different categories and the comparatively subdued forecast volume gains across the board underline the importance of innovation and geographic expansion. With micro-distillers already leaving their mark on vodka and English gin and hence providing dynamism and edginess to the categories, Dutch gin remains less and less relevant to aspiring drinkers in its core markets.

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White Spirits: Grey Prospects and Golden Opportunities

White spirits: Dominated by vodka and in a recovery position

White spirits are still in the grip of the ubiquitous vodka category, while showcasing signs of subdued yet healthy resurgence

Dutch gin: Losing relevance and adding flavour

Dutch gin retains its positive trajectory but the curve is gradually softening due to the category’s lack of aspirational attributes and outdated image. Innovation activities are mostly focusing on flavour sophistication and lower abv variants in an attempt to increase penetration rates in younger audiences.

English gin: Coming out of the woodwork

While top line volume growth remains largely uninspiring, the wave of launches by micro-distillers in the US and the UK and the first signs of mainstream brands embracing flavour sophistication point to cautious optimism

Vodka: Testing the limits of flavor sophistication

While vodka has historically been a pioneer in both the trends of flavour sophistication and premiumisation, overegging the former is currently happening at the expense of the latter and could eventually backfire.

Limited or diminishing volume growth opportunities shift focus to added-value products

Premium and luxury expressions will increasingly surface as the key engines for growth for all white spirits in their overly mature core markets.

Highly fragmented versus overly consolidated

While English gin and vodka are highly fragmented – with the nascent craft segment fuelling innovation and experimentation - Dutch gin is highly consolidated and lacking radical ideas and aspirational credentials.

Regional limitations undermine growth prospects

Vodka’s casual and mixable character has secured the category a solid presence in most countries. This has, in turn, raised the opportunities beyond its sinking Eastern European flagship. English and especially Dutch gin should follow the same path sooner rather than later.

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Key findings

White Spirits

Resurgent and under vodka’s shadow
The regional perspective
Diageo’s lead and fragmentation issues

English Gin

Gin’s two distinctly different expressions
Regionally focused
Less but better
Distribution channels: Sales moving in parallel
Diageo, Gordon's and the others
Spain: The market, the category and Hendrick’s
NPDs: Tradition with a twist
Volume stagnation and a new era of premiumisation

Dutch Gin

A largely Philippine affair
Affordable but increasingly out of touch
In the off-trade’s shadow
San Miguel’s playground
Dutch Gin NPDs: Lighter and more flavoursome?
Regional borders


The Eastern European bastion and vodka’s ubiquitous presence
From Russia with tax
O n-trade’s slow and temporary recovery
Smirnoff and the others
Flavours and the American palate
Vodka: Flavoured bubble ?
A world of vodka drinkers minus Eastern Europe

White Spirits Prospects

Steady as she goes
Added value opportunities

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