Alcoholic Drinks – New Product Launches for March 2011

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

Bourbon: Red Stag’s disciples

If vodka’s pioneering role in spearheading flavoured propositions – and more than getting away with it – put such fears to rest, last year’s rather radical, black cherry infused Red Stag Jim Beam truly broke new ground.

The extension’s triumphant success – even in the face of initial press criticism and purists’ disdain – is still making waves and bourbon suddenly appears to be all the more dynamic because of it. Jack Daniel’s is currently following suit, and the launch – if proven successful – could herald an avalanche of flavoured variants within previously largely static categories.

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey from Jack Daniel’s

The new variant is based on Jack Daniel’s Old No 7 Tennessee Whiskey “mingled with a proprietary honey liqueur”. It will be available in all US states in 50ml, 375ml, 750ml and 1-litre bottle sizes at a suggested retail price of US$22 for a 750ml bottle.

RTDs going on-trade?

RTDs, at least in their latest incarnation as austerity-era alternatives to unaffordable horeca cocktail propositions or as convenient concoctions focusing on consumption on the go, have little to do with the on-trade by definition. Capitalising on the on-trade’s demise was actually the category’s primary driver while the concept of having readymade cocktails served in a bar appeared to be inherently counterintuitive and self-defeating.

Not anymore. Ginger ale, one of last year’s big hits in the UK alcoholic drinks market, is becoming the vehicle through which whiskey can be served from the front rather than the back of a bar, and the possible success of The Ginger Grouse on tap could potentially revolutionise much more than the RTD category. The industry – from Scotch distillers to pub operators – will be surely keeping a close eye.

The Ginger Grouse from Edrington Group

Blended Scotch brand The Famous Grouse has begun a trial of The Ginger Grouse, a mix of whisky and ginger beer. The 6% pre-mix, which is poured from a tap and served “tall over ice”, will debut in nine Scottish bars over a period of five weeks in an attempt to rewrite the rulebook on RTD propositions, Scotch and ginger ale categories.

A punk in the supermarket

Those who are remotely involved or interested in the booming UK craft beer market must have tasted or at the very least read a story about the most provocative, controversial and decidedly post-modern microbrewer out there. From its cynically named Nanny State non-alcoholic variant to the over the top, record-breaking Sink the Bismarck! 41% ABV IPA, BrewDog has maintained a remarkable knack for dominating the headlines while translating controversy into rapidly rising sales.

BrewDog Punk IPA in cans from BrewDog exclusively in Sainsbury’s

In a watershed development marking craft beer entering the mainstream in the UK, Sainsbury’s has launched BrewDog’s flagship beer, Punk IPA, in cans. The 330ml cans will be listed exclusively by the supermarket for one year, alongside the brand’s 5AM Saint amber ale and 9.2% ABV Hardcore IPA.

Scotland’s largest independent brewery marked the launch with a “crap beer amnesty”, which will allow beer fans to swap a can of branded lager for a Punk IPA. Punk IPA is currently the only craft beer available in cans in the UK and it will probably not be the last.

Low ABV and organic offerings: From niche to mainstream?

Regardless of the legislative labyrinth haunting low ABV wine propositions under EU regulation, the demand for such offerings is consistent and well documented. Ideal for either drivers, female consumers or occasions requiring lower levels of alcohol intake – such as the lunch hour ritual – lower ABV wines will increasingly leave their footprint in mature markets and , eventually, beyond them.

Low ABV Banrock Station from Constellation Wines (Accolade Wines)

Constellation Wines Australia and Europe, soon to be renamed Accolade Wines, has launched two low alcohol Moscato wines under its Banrock Station brand in the UK. Initially listing in Tesco, the two new variants will come with an ABV of 5.5% for the white and 5.7% for the ‘Pink Moscato’ and will cost £4.99 per 75cl bottle.

Organic wine from Yantai Changyu Pioneer Wine Co Ltd

Yantai Changyu Pioneer Wine Co Ltd has released what is claimed to be the “first wine made from organically-grown grapes in Chinese history”. The wine, produced by the Yantai-based winery in Shandong province, uses Cabernet Gernischt – a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. It has been a five-year project and Clemens Tamegger of TxB told the drinks business that yields were around 7,000-8,000 tonnes per hectare rather than the norm in China of 30,000.