Alcoholic Drinks – August 2012 Overview of New Product Launches

This monthly summary highlights some of the most interesting product launches in August, with a focus on the direction the alcoholic drinks industry is taking in terms of innovative developments.

Craft Beer and All the Tea in China

It began as a kind of a dismissive anecdote with decidedly colonial undertones. Scotch whisky was only starting to make its first baby-steps in the Far East, its most premium incarnations quietly trickling down towards the newly founded, upmarket watering holes across mainland China.

And yet, Chinese palates were not sophisticated enough. Lacking the necessary refinement, the story goes, drinkers had to find ways to dilute the tipple’s overwhelmingly peaty and smoky flavours. So, to aficionados’ and specialists’ utter distaste and righteous horror they opted for the ‘sacrilege’ of mixing their single malts with green tea.

Crude or not, it worked. Humble (green) tea became a surprisingly fitting vessel for one of the alcoholic drinks industry’s most generically ostentatious categories and what a ride did that prove to be. According to Euromonitor International, single malt volumes saw a surge of 16% in total volume CAGR terms just over 2007 to 2011 and while green tea is now the supporting character rather than the leading protagonist in the story, there is little doubt that the category’s current success owes a lot to that once mocked, rather rudimentary cocktail.

Now, beer is not where Scotch used to be back in those days in China. Boasting a per capita consumption of 36 litres in 2011, total beer drinking rates have more than doubled over the past decade. But craft beer largely remains in the side-lines, much more so than in the mature western markets. Tea might easily prove to be the unexpected ingredient that will ignite the fuse for the niche segment’s future boom, yet again.

Yunnan Amber from Great Leap Brewing and Boxing Cat Brewery

Two Chinese micro-breweries have launched what they claim to be the country’s first collaborative brewing project: a black tea-infused beer called Yunnan Amber. This first collaborative project saw a total of 1,000 litres produced, which is now being served at both breweries. Meanwhile, a craft beer scene is steadily emerging in China, with operations such as Great Leap Brewing and Boxing Cat Brewery starting to appear in major cities. 2012 saw the first Shanghai Beer Week take place in April, followed by the first Beijing Craft Beer Festival in June.

Cider: Gold is the new white

The unfolding US invasion might have begun quietly but cider and perry have not withdrawn support from their traditional European stronghold. On the contrary. As increasingly disillusioned American beer drinkers begin to (re)discover their long lost cider drinking heritage, the defiantly premium, provenance orientated and tradition steeped launches and rebranding exercises are gathering momentum in the UK.

According to Euromonitor International cider/perry is expected to post an enviable 5% total volume CAGR over 2011 to 2016 in the UK and as white ciders disappear from both aisles and the country’s collective unconscious, ‘golden’, higher-end varietals will continue leading growth.

Thatchers Gold multi-pack from Thatchers

Thatchers’ launch into the multi-pack format is to meet the “continuing demand for premium heritage cider”, according to the company’s MD Martin Thatcher. The Somerset-based company previously revealed details of a summer TV advertising campaign to push its Gold brand in the UK market.

Old Rosie Revamp from Westons Cider

The updated bottle was launched at the Great British Beer Festival in London in August 2012. Named after Westons Cider’s ”much loved old 1921 Aveling and Porter steam roller”, the logo has now become more sophisticated while also jumping on the accelerating nostalgia/retro bandwagon.