Innovation in the non-alcoholic sector and the rise and rise of craft gin are the big themes in this year’s Imbibe Live
The annual Olympia drinks exhibition - Imbibe Live - is always a great friendly place to catch up with old friends from the trade and see what’s happening in the world of drinks marketing and branding.
Yesterday was busy which is always a good sign. The on-trade seems in rude health.
And this was before lunch.
There’s much creativity going into new products – we liked the innovation in the non-alcoholic and mixers sector. Ever since first mover Seedlip took the market by storm just a few short years ago - creating a new category of adult, non-alcoholic spirits - the sector is booming with new brands. Everleaf - a non-alcoholic bittersweet aperitif, underpinned by some smart sustainability messaging and Sea Arch - a gin spirit with the alcohol removed - particularly caught our eye. And how timely given the rise of the newly coined "sober curious" . Here's what The Guardian had to say on the subject.
Certainly stronger taste profiles are coming though, which is good news.
Honourable mentions to: Two Keys tea-based mixers
Mr FitzPatrick's lemon and turmeric spritzer with its low fizz water pump.
Strong shelf stand out from Artisan Mixers
And Tiptree’s gin liqueurs – a great brand extension idea
But the most energy seemed to be going into gin.
So many gin brands, in various life stages: just born, fledgling, middling, mature....
We must have seen at least 30 different stands, with double figures from the West Country alone.
And here’s the Brand point:
They all say the same things with varying degrees of emphasis: craftsmanship, artisan business, independence, uniqueness of region, sourcing, purity of some kind, founder passion, chemistry and of course a bewildering and wondrous range of botanicals from around the world. Nothing wrong with that but it’s hard for any individual brand to stand out.
By the time you have seen the obligatory backdrop post card picture of the town the gin came, a spice stock shot, a founder passion story and some gleaming distillery pipe tubing somewhere, you have seen them all.
If everyone says the same thing, what's the difference?
Of course presentation and imagery plays a part.
But faced with so many in one room we felt we had to reach out for the Good Book and again sing out:
Story, Story, Story.
Brands have to dig deeper, and go beyond the expected generic, if they want long term robust business success.
Innovation ain't what it was. It’s got harder.
Even Diageo is scaling back. Doing less - but doing it better. Speaking at an innovation event hosted by the company earlier this week, Michael Ward, Diageo’s global head of innovation, said: “We are actually doing less innovation now than three or four years ago and that is quite simply because of the strength of our ideas in our pipeline. [They] are delivering most of what [we want] and that allows us to be more choiceful.”
Three we liked though that have great potential:
Hapusa Gin - from Nao Spirits
Great taste and lovely people. Talking to the owners, all the brands have terrific back stories which deserve to be told.
To sophisticated, marketing-literate drinkers, Surface is not enough. Particularly with craft, artisan or premium/luxury drinks.
Talk value means brands have to provide depth and intelligence.
Oft-quoted Generation X and Millennials –the marketer’s holy grail audience - is intelligent and curious.
Integrity and a meaningful narrative is required.
They are becoming increasingly smart at seeing how brands behave.
We are big gin fans so here’s to seeing some more imaginative brand narratives from this sector.
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