Flor de Cana

Rum sales to overtake vodka

April 15, 2020
By Ken Gargett

It’s not often the industry is almost unanimous when looking at the future of a category, but such was the response when Drinks Trade magazine took a look at the future of rum sales in Australia.

There’s been some debate as to whether rum has already overtaken vodka in Australia. Perhaps not just yet, but it will be soon. Rum sales should also exceed brandy in the next few years if they maintain their current progress.

The Bacardi 2020 Cocktail Trends Report is useful to ascertain the state of the industry, as it’s “a reflection of what’s creating excitement this year for bartenders and consumers”. Global brand ambassadors and bartenders, those with their feet on the ground, provide the information. And 43% voted dark rum as the spirit that is ‘premiumising’ most, followed by tequila (40%), gin (37%), mezcal (29%) and vermouth (21%).

According to James France from Vanguard, which represents Nicaraguan rum Flor de Cana: “Total rum is up 5.8% with far and away the largest growth coming from super-premium rums.”

And Flor de Cana is an ideal example, with its extraordinary 30-Year-Old rum – or the 10 bottle allocation, at least – reaching our shores. This brilliant rum sits comfortably next to the finest cognacs and whiskies, and the price reflects that, at more than $2500 a bottle.

France says “aged rums are excellent value for money compared to other aged spirits, especially scotch and bourbon”. He is convinced “aged rum’s time will come. Probably sooner than later.”

Another strong proponent of rum standing up as one of the world’s great spirits is Richard Seale, from cult Barbados distillery Foursquare. He is concerned that a large section of the market has focused on what he terms “sub-standard” products, therefore delaying the march to elite status.

“We do not need to start making premium rum; we have been doing it for more than 100 years,” he said.

Sam Jeveons, co-owner of Nusa Cana rums, also believes that rum is on the rise.

“Better quality rums are on the market, and better conversations about those rums origins, styles, environment, labour, blending, ageing and dosage are being had,” he said.

Andrew Shannon, from Campari, which owns Caribbean rum producer, Appleton, notes that spiced rums have experienced “huge growth momentum”. While this has slowed a little, with other categories such as gin taking the limelight, growth is still positive and is forecast to continue now that this category has begun to mature.

Shannon acknowledges the domination of bourbon within dark spirits and Bundaberg within rum, but sees “the growth in dark spirits towards the super-premium and premium segments”.

He supports initiatives “which continue to breathe life into products in the category outside the dominant brand”, as well as efforts to educate new consumers and open up the sector. He sees cocktails as an excellent entry point.

Tanya Mah, Australian brand manager for Angostura, the most awarded rum portfolio in the world, understands that for many drinkers, “good quality, affordability and value for money are the most important factors.”

That said, Mah is aware that Angostura inhabits the “higher end” of the sector and notes that by using premium and luxury sipping rums to actively target dark-spirits connoisseurs – such as whisky and cognac – instead of traditional rum drinkers, it’s helping to grow the premium, super-premium and luxury part of the market.

Rum brands such as Angostura behave less like a traditional rum and more like a whisky or a cognac, and that means consumers are moving away from making choices based on the category of spirit and instead thinking about luxury dark spirits as a whole.

Mah sees spiced rums as useful to “recruit new drinkers into the category and to bridge the divide, attracting a younger audience and a more even gender split”.

Australia has an incredible history involving rum – the Rum Rebellion, anyone? And we have been making it for centuries.

More recently, craft distilleries have started to dabble in rum, sometimes with superb results – Archie Rose, for example.

For many, rum will remain inextricably linked to image of Bundy and Coke. Bundaberg Rum is a successful product, our leading distillery, and for many Australians will be their entry into the world of spirits. For others, the push to the elite end of the market will mean that rum is well on the way to taking its rightful place as one of the world’s quality spirits.

Drinks Trade autumn edition

Read Ken Gargett’s full rum feature in Drinks Trade Autumn.

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