Which tastes are ‘rum’-ing the game in the spirit category?

Streetbees Team
April 11, 2022

Demand has ‘shot’ up for certain flavour profiles

Shifts in consumer lifestyles during the pandemic continue to influence the spirits category. Spirit consumption, for example, grew from 12% in Q2 to 21% in Q4. Our bees also told us that the reason they choose certain spirits has changed. While ‘to meet a craving’ fell from 22% in 2020 to 8% in 2021, the importance of taste has increased over the past 12 months.

The proportion of our bees who said that taste was the main reason for choice:

  • Q1 = 33%
  • Q2 = 35%
  • Q3 = 38%
  • Q4 = 41%

While taste is, of course, vital in all food and drink categories, the types of tastes consumers are seeking is changing. When it comes to spirits, sweet, subtle flavour profiles are making way for smoother, more full-bodied profiles. Dry, crisp and bitter flavours are also increasingly preferred and we’re seeing a boost in demand for more natural and botanical elements. 

*Based on Streetbees data in the UK, FR, DE, IT and ES. 

Let’s look at the driving demand space behind spirit consumption to help you position your brand. 

From our 4.5 million bees, who are constantly sharing their real-time habits and attitudes with us, we’ve found that the ‘Afternoon Aperitifs’ demand space over-indexes here - a space which has grown steadily since Q1 2021. This is a leisurely late-afternoon occasion, where consumers are looking to end the week on a high with loved ones. 

Spirits have grown rapidly here over the last few months and have overtaken wine and beer to become the top alcohol of choice in this space. This uplift is led by whisky, famed for its smoothness, and vodka, well-known for its crisp flavour.  

So how can you grow your spirit brand in this space?

1. Focus on mouth-feel for a smoother drinking experience

Our bees told us that smoothness has become one of the leading reasons they choose to drink certain spirits. 44% of spirit consumption occasions are relaxed, so the smoothness with which the drink ‘goes down’ is important. Whisky leads in this space, but other spirits are increasingly being referred to as smooth by consumers, including tequila. 

To ensure a smooth delivery, focus on improving the mouth-feel of the drink and consider using elements of heat, smoke and spice to create well-rounded flavours. 

Brand spotlights - ‘an offer decant refuse’

* Devon Rum Co. has launched a new premium Golden Rum, with a blend of Caribbean rums and Devonian spring water. With notes of citrus, oak and tobacco, it’s been designed to have a super smooth finish.* 

2. Offset sweetness with drier, crisper flavours 

2 in 5 consumers* have adopted a healthier lifestyle since the pandemic began, so many are choosing unmixed drinks to lower their calorie and sugar intake. In fact, we’ve seen the proportion of consumers who drink spirits neat more than double since 2020. 

As a result, palates for low sugar will continue to grow. Offset sweetness by opting for stronger, fuller flavours and drier, crisper profiles. Bitter flavours are also in demand. For example, consumption of lemon-flavoured alcoholic beverages have increased year-on-year (7% 2020 to 11% 2021), while sweeter flavours, like peach, have dropped. 

*Based on Streetbees data in the UK, CN and IN. 

Brand spotlights - ‘you’re pretty neat’

Cathead Distillery produces three vodkas using grain corn for a crisp finish. Each batch is made using water and filtration methods that rival some of the best commercial spring water beverages on the market. 

3. Explore botanicals to appeal to the health-conscious 

The global trend for natural, unprocessed ingredients is making its way into the alcohol category, particularly in spirits and cocktails. In fact, the proportion of drinkers who consider themselves health-conscious rose from 23% in 2020 to 42% in 2021. 

These consumers are increasingly seeking out natural ingredients and fruity/botanical flavours. Explore product innovations around this. We’ve seen this boom in the gin category, but there’s a real opportunity to incorporate this approach into other spirits.  

Brand spotlights - ‘some you gin, some you lose’

Amazzoni Gin uses juniper berries, laurel, lemon, coriander, tangerine and pink pepper as the five principal ingredients in its gin, macerating them in cereal alcohol to create a unique botanical flavour.


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