In its Soft Drinks – Ireland report published last November, Mintel Ireland conducted a survey which found that, “Carbonated water usage has likely benefitted from the increase in gin usage among Irish consumers – with a quarter of Irish consumers drinking gin with a mixer in October 2017 (Toluna)”. The report also found that some 24% of people aged over 16 use mixers with or without alcohol.
In the UK, market analysts CGA discovered that among spirit consumers those drinking gin show a preference for premium bottled mixers over standard or even draught mixers with 56% stating that it’s their preferred style of service.
The quality of mixer therefore plays a significant part in the quality of the spirit served today.
So CGA believes that it’s not just the spirit that’s expected to perform in line with consumer expectations.
“The mixer and presentation are also significant with 83% of gin consumers saying it’s important their drink comes with the expected serve (ie with cucumber, lime or ice),” states CGA in its Brand Track Style of serve report on mixed/soft drinks from February this year.
The report also finds that while only 17% of whiskey drinkers in the UK seek a premium bottled mixer (with 25% seeking a standard bottled mixer), 48% of gin drinkers there seek a premium bottled mixer (‘though 56% seek a standard bottled mixer).
Similarly, 17% of UK vodka drinkers seek a premium bottled mixer (where 25% of vodka drinkers there seek a standard bottled mixer) and 21% of rum drinkers prefer a premium serve compared to the 42% who prefer a standard one.
In drinking brandy or Cognac, 17% seek a premium bottled mixer where 21% seek a standard bottled mixer.
There seems to be lots of potential for expansion in this market therefore, especially with Reuters predicting that the market for premium mixers should grow to around $2.12 billion by 2025.
As for this country, who better to ask about mixer trends here in Ireland than Anna Walsh from the soon-to-be-opened Virgin Mary pub on Capel Street serving only non-alcoholic drinks.
“Things have moved on from the days when there was just one brand of mixer,” she says, “A lot of those expressing a preference for low alcohol or no alcohol are looking for low sugar too, but they don’t want a mass-marketed low-sugar brand, they’re demanding something healthier.”
And the push for premium has only become a ‘thing’ since premium became available. Ten years ago premium mixers were simply not available, she points out.
“Thanks to social media and travelling, people are seeing new things and want to be the first to try new things.
“Generally they want something a bit better for them and Irish people’s palates are becoming more adventurous.
“Also, because of the whole gin explosion, it has been gin & mixers, gin & mixers and gin & mixers of late.
“Other than that, low-sugar has become a perceivable demand and we’re becoming more aware of what has been deemed bad for us. It’s becoming more mainstream to be into your health.”
There’s a certain graw for Irish-made mixers too.
“We like to use something local and home-grown,” says Anna simply.
It’ll be interesting to see what customers order by way of a mixer this Summer.
The premiumisation of the mixer and soft drinks category
Mixers have become the fastest-growing carbonated drinks category in Ireland and following a rise in the popularity of consumers drinking less but better quality, there has been particular growth in the premium soft drinks market.
This, combined with the long-term trend of lighter, lower calorie and lower sugar drinks, means there’s been a need for brands to broaden their product offering to include ‘healthier choices’ that strengthen consumers’ overall drinking experience in terms of taste, serve and enjoyment.
At the forefront of this evolving category and lighter drinking movement is The London Essence Company, a premium drinks brand producing elegantly distilled mixers designed to accentuate the finest spirits. Each expression is delicately light at under 20kcal per 100ml, low in sugar at under 4g per 100ml and crafted without the use of artificial sweeteners thanks to its unique use of distilled essences.
“Following the long-term trend towards sugar reduction across the world and being consumers of premium drinks ourselves, we found that many ‘premium’ options focused on natural credentials but were also very high in sugar,” said Britvic Ireland Brand Manager Brian Greer, “It’s important to deliver light, natural options that also have great taste to ensure overall enjoyment.”
Through its relationship with the on-trade and conversations with world-leading bartenders London Essence also recognised that high sugar mixers often overpowered the characteristics of the spirit partner instead of enhancing them.
With that in mind, the brand took inspiration from its heritage in creating distilled essences which capture the flavour of the finest ingredients to deliver aromatic signature notes and great taste, with only a dusting of sugar.
There has also been a huge shift change in the number of people reducing their alcohol intake following an increase in the alcohol-free trend. The London Essence Company’s use of contemporary flavours makes the whole range as enjoyable on their own as they are when mixed, it claims.
“Thanks to the growing mixer market and continual product innovation, curious consumers now have plenty of options in terms of flavour and pairing,” Brian adds, “However it’s important to offer quality, taste and versatility first and foremost. A sign of a sophisticated mixer is when they can be enjoyed in any form – with or without a spirit – to satisfy all drinking occasions and preferences.
“Our use of distilled essences and collaboration with renowned mixologists have led to sophisticated flavour combinations with the ability to create varied drinking experiences,” said Brian.
The London Essence range is designed to bring out the best in particular gins, vodkas and dark spirits and includes Classic Tonic Water featuring its signature Juniper distillate and the Grapefruit & Rosemary Tonic, featuring its signature Rosemary distillate, Blood Orange oils and a rich bitter Orange tincture artfully blended to provide the base for its Bitter Orange & Elderflower Tonic.
Delicate Ginger Ale with steeped Ginger root and Aniseed distillate provides bartenders with a mixer which allows them to elevate rather than mask dark spirits and the range is completed with a Spiced Ginger Beer, Soda Water and a limited-edition Pomelo and Pink Peppercorn Tonic. The whole range Is available from Counterpoint, Ireland’s largest on-trade beverage wholesaler, formerly known as Britvic Wholesale Ltd.
Lifting Irish sprits since 1852
As part of the 165th year anniversary celebration of Club Mixers, Club unveiled a complete relaunch of its iconic range in 2017. The launch saw the introduction of an award-winning new tonic recipe and an iconic new non-returnable glass bottle available in both 125ml and 200ml for the on-trade.
The brand also updated liquid and packaging for the grocery channel with its 850ml PET bottle and last March released a new four-pack 200ml glass pack, both available for Tonic, Slimline Tonic and Ginger Ale.
Continuing with a significant marketing campaign which has included experiential and sampling marketing, consumer PR, trade press, Point-Of-Purchase communications and digital support, the brand has looked to not only retain its relevance with its loyal consumers but also to bring new drinkers to the joy of the brand.
“We’re still very excited about the Club Mixers’ brand as it was very important for us to keep such an iconic Irish brand contemporary and relevant to the modern consumer,” said Britvic Ireland’s Brand Manager Brian Greer, “Our focus has always been to deliver a unique and superior taste experience which is why being internationally-recognised as delivering an exceptional taste was such a proud moment for the brand and re-affirms the strength of our offering in such a competitive space.”
The Club Mixers portfolio offers a wide range of flavours, best enjoyed chilled over ice with a garnish of choice. Club Mixers are the perfect accompaniment to spirits, expertly designed to blend deliciously with gins, vodkas and whiskeys.