BEER and cider giant Heineken reckons the new spirit beers sub-category could be worth £200m by 2016.
The firm says its beer in the segment, the tequila-flavoured bottled lager Desperados, is the UK’s fastest growing beer brand. Desperados has seen value sales increase by 475% year on year.
The spirit beers segment is already worth over £26m with value sales growing by 262% year on year the firm says, adding that Desperados has grown from £5m to £20m in less than a year.
Heineken took over UK distribution for the brand in early 2012 and has supported it with poster advertising, digital marketing and sampling activity. The firm says it has increased off-trade distribution for the brand from 3.4% in April 2012, to 75%.
Also upbeat about spirits beers is SHS drinks which looks after a series of beer brands that combined lager with a variety of spirits.
“As we head into 2014 spirit beers is a sector of the beer category that retailers simply can’t afford to ignore,” said Mark Hopper, head of innovation and development at SHS Drinks, which launched bourbon-flavoured Dead Crow and rum-flavoured Cuvana around a year ago.
“It’s a sector which really did take off big time last year – sales more than doubled in 2013; the category is now worth in excess of £1.3m to Scottish retailers; and the growth shows no sign of slowing,“ he said.
“It’s certainly been the star performer in the premium packaged lager category.”
Hopper reckons the success of the emerging spirit beer sector was down to 18 to 25 year-olds looking to discover new drinks and the launch of a clutch of new spirit-flavoured beer brands during 2013 that widened the appeal of the sub-category.
He said: “Until we launched Dead Crow and Cuvana last year, the choice was very limited. There were only two spirit flavoured beers and both of those were tequila-flavoured with Desperados having paved the way.
“We developed bourbon and rum-flavoured options to create a point of difference and attract a broader consumer base.
“Consumers like the smooth, spicy flavour and touch of sweetness these spirit flavours impart to the beer, and they are also drawn by the heritage associated with bourbon and rum.”