Tonic: Mixing up the flavours

Consumer thirst for unusual additions to boost their G&T has never been higher, reports Sonya Hook

Botanicals from all around the world can now be found emblazoned on gin bottles in stores around the country. What’s next after lavender, lemongrass and peppercorn? Gin lovers can’t

wait to find out, and producers are no doubt out in all weathers scouring the countryside for long-lost herbs to add to the mix.

But that’s not enough for the growing number of G&T fans.

These drinkers have long been pairing their artisan gins with premium tonics and now they want more than a choice of just classic and light.

The trend now is for flavoured tonics, served in a raft of formats, from single-serve cans to big glass sharing bottles.

And for the mixer category it’s a similar story, with an increasing array of options designed specifically to enhance certain spirits.

It’s all contributing to ongoing growth in tonics and mixers, with Fever-Tree recently announcing it expects revenue for 2018 to reach £236 million, up 39% on the year before.

So which drinks should retailers look out for and what might we see for the months ahead? Flavoured tonic water has been high on the agenda for Franklin & Sons, the tonic in Global Brands’ portfolio.

The latest NPD includes premium and dual- flavoured tonics in four flavours: Rosemary & Black Olive, Pink Grapefruit & Bergamot, Rhubarb & Hibiscus and Elderflower & Cucumber.

Marketing director Jen Draper, says: “The flavours work in harmony with a range of spirits. For example, the Rhubarb & Hibiscus pairs wonderfully with a spiced gin, or you could diversify a herbaceous gin with the Rosemary & Black Olive tonic.”

The collection has been designed to pair with more than just gin. The tonics can help elevate fortified drinks such as vermouth, port and sherry, according to Draper, who adds: “For example, Franklin & Sons Rosemary & Black Olive tonic water would pair seamlessly with vermouth as the bitterness of the olive beautifully balances the sweeter notes.”

Separately, Global Brands has paired its Franklin tonics with craft spirits (Portobello Road gin, Manchester gin and Caorunn Small Batch Scottish gin) to create 25cl pre-mixed cans.

Draper says: “We use whichever of the Franklin & Sons portfolio delivers the perfect serve and best possible taste profile with the accompanying spirit. For example, the Sicilian Lemon tonic is paired with Manchester Raspberry-Infused gin to produce the perfect twist on a classic G&T serve.”

In other activity from 2018, Love Drinks rolled out the four-strong Artisan Drinks Co range, and the company says interest has been “extraordinary”. Marketing manager Ellie Jones says: “The brand’s sleek, artistic and stylish packaging provides stand-out and the drinks, which have been created by award-winning Australian bar owner and cocktail specialist Mikey Enright, use 100% natural ingredients and are the perfect partner for an array of craft spirits.”

The foursome comprises Classic London tonic, Skinny London tonic, Violet Blossom tonic and Barrel Smoked cola.

ALIGNING QUALITY BRANDS

Jones adds that Love Drinks is lucky to be able to try out collaborations between Artisan Drinks Co and its various rums, gins and cachaça, which have worked “extremely well”. She says: “It’s a great way of aligning the quality brands together, creating exciting activations and tastings plus maximising promotions to drive sales.”

She also points out that, as low and no-alcohol drinks gain popularity, tonics and mixers will become even more important to consumers this year, and retailers should be prepared for this.

Fever-Tree also highlights the rise of alcohol-free cocktails, which it says is helping to attract interest from mixologists. Fever-Tree communications director Oliver Parfett points to the company’s Smoky Ginger Ale, which he says has attracted a lot of attention from mixologists seeking to replace the peatiness of whisky with a non- alcoholic spirit alternative. “The Savoy now has three cocktails on its menu with this mixer in,” he says.

“Our Spiced Orange variant is also doing well as it goes with a lot of things. And we are seeing a lot of interest in our range of dark spirit mixers. We predict there will be growth in people looking for mixers and tonics that go with non- alcoholic spirits, and also growth in mixers that go with rum and tequila.”

Last year Fever-Tree unveiled a citrus tonic water – made with Mexican limes, tangerines and bitter orange – to go with Patron Tequila.

Fentimans also confirms a big consumer interest in flavoured tonics. Neil Donachie, event marketing manager, says its Pink Grapefruit tonic is “smashing it in the off-trade”, while its recently launched Pink Rhubarb and Yuzu tonics, sold in to Sainsbury’s and Asda, also got off to a good start.

He says: “Sales of Pink Rhubarb tonic are going crazy. Yuzu will probably always be niche but we are working to grow sales for that one too. We have also seen a lot of interest in our Connoisseur tonic, where we have pared back the quinine and other flavours to let the gin show through.”

Meanwhile, the big brands have been investing heavily to make sure they don’t get left behind.

Coca-Cola European Partners’ Schweppes brand is in “major growth” across all channels and has been since its relaunch in 2017, according to senior trade communications manager Amy Burgess.

Recent initiatives include the launch of Schweppes 1783, a six-strong range of naturally-flavoured premium mixers created by mixologists. Burgess says: “The Salty Lemon and Quenching Cucumber variants push the boundaries of the mixer category with their unique, innovative taste profiles and are perfect for discerning drinkers to experiment with.”

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