Gin has overtaken rum and speciality spirits in the UK on-trade after another double-digit sales increase in the year to June – but experts are warning of potential trouble ahead.
Gin sales in bars and restaurants were up 12% to 58,000 hectolitres, and rose by 16% in value terms to £687m, according to CGA Strategy figures quoted by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).
In retail, gin sales surpassed £500m for the first time, after adding £200m in revenues over the past five years alone. Demand for gin education is also rising, with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) reporting a 30% upsurge in candidate numbers for spirits courses in the last academic year.
But life is getting tougher for new entrants to a crowded gin marketplace, according to William Lowe, master distiller at the Cambridge Distillery and WSET certified spirits educator.
'It is becoming increasingly difficult for any single brand to make an impact beyond its local market, thereby leading to people putting extra effort into differentiating themselves,' he said.
Speaking with Imbibe in June, One Gin director said the gin bubble did not look likely to burst any time soon.
Nick King, another WSET certified spirits educator and product development manager of spirits and saké at the WSET, said the gin boom had been driven by 'a wider movement of localness, smallness of production, different flavours and authenticity'.
But he warned that the appeal of having the word 'gin' on a label could lead to 'confusion and annoyance' among consumers.
'The law states that gin must have the "predominant flavour of juniper",' King said. 'However, this is vague and consequently there are now products sold as gin that have little or barely any perceptible flavours of juniper.'
Gin was, in effect, a subset of flavoured vodka, so it made sense to preserve the link with juniper, he added, but labelling something as flavoured vodka 'does not immediately scream premiumness to the trade or consumers. If someone can crack this, then they will do the world an enormous favour'.