Consumers are prepared to splash out on their favourite spirits brands as a special treat at Christmas, while the growing popularity of home cocktails has fuelled interest in liqueurs

Price promotion on spirits at Christmas is a delicate balancing act. Since some consumers buy certain spirits only during the festive season, they are therefore less swayed by price and are prepared to splash out more for their favourite brands. But a tempting price offer from a rival brand could test their loyalties.
Diageo, which recently launched its Smirnoff Norsk brand extension into the off-trade, will be increasing its marketing activity for the Smirnoff vodka brand and hopes this will persuade retailers not to go too low on price.
“We believe the new ad and surrounding marketing activity will further raise interest in Smirnoff vodka from our target consumers and generate increased volume over the Christmas period,” says James Pennefather, Diageo GB’s brand director for Smirnoff.
In addition, drinks producers are giving increased attention to the off-trade after reports that the level of home alcohol consumption is at its highest in two years, with a particular uptake by the over-35s.
“Spirits occasions are moving up tempo, particularly at home, while the
opposite is happening in the on-trade,” says Diageo’s off-trade MD, Benet Slay.
And one area that is likely to boost sales of spirits this Christmas is the growing interest in home cocktails.
“Liqueurs like Sisca cassis and Chambord raspberry liqueur have been selling well throughout this year as the taste for cocktails gathers pace,” says Rupert Wilkins, chairman of drinks distributor Malcolm Cowen.
“The home-mixing trend has been building up for the past couple of years, echoing what has happened in the US.”
Indeed, US cocktail mix brands are starting to find their way on to UK shelves, including Finest Call, a range of ready-made mixes - including flavours such as Pina Colada and Bloody Mary - from American Beverage Marketers.
Celtic Spirit is another company that has launched a ready-to-drink cocktail range, EZE Cocktails, which it says will remove the need for consumers to buy a whole range of spirits and mixers.
Drinks supplier First Drinks Brands also acknowledges there is a growing trend for the at-home cocktail occasion, and sales have grown at 22% for its De Kuyper brand [GB total trade non-cream liqueurs volume, July 2005].
“Liqueurs are no longer seen as digestifs,” says Fiona Chinn, marketing director at First Drinks Brands.