A raft of Mexican drinks brands are tackling the UK market in a bid to encourage greater off-trade demand for agave-based spirits.

Fiona Bayley, spirits buyer for Sainsbury's, said the tequila market in the UK was a small sector, but the retailer was definitely considering adding to its range. "We have been approached by many tequila brands recently," she said.

Productos Jaral De Berrio plans to launch its mezcal spirit Mezcal Jaral de Berrio in the UK, following its launch in Mexico in January. The spirit has the same alcoholic strength as tequila at 36% abv and will cost about £15 for a 75 cl bottle. "Mezcal is different from tequila, which uses the blue agave plant," said spokeswoman Jimena de la Peza.

"The process is like tequila but it has a different taste, which is mild and a bit smokey. Local consumers are seeing a revival of this type, which was once a popular drink in the area."

In addition, two tequilas - Impulsora Rombo and Tequila Herradura - are looking to develop off-trade listings in the UK.

Reports are circulating that Herradura is a key acquisition target for the big brand owners.

Pernod Ricard recently launched its Tevado brand in the US, where the premium tequila market has been booming.

The UK has seen some on-trade growth in this sector, but the off-trade offers limited shelf-space, although many are thinking of expanding.

"Sainsbury's may con­sider adding a premium tequila to its range," said Bayley. "However, it cer­tainly wouldn't be until after Christmas."