Herbal Hotspot

28 October, 2013

Plans in the pipeline include an Averna cocktail competition in the UK and the overall strategy is to concentrate on developing “goodwill for the brand” and a growing interest for all things amaro. 

Cult success

The bartending community is vital for the ongoing success of the number one Italian bitters brand, Fernet Branca, which in the US has become something of a cult. 

The brand is also hugely popular in South America, most notably Argentina. All of which adds up to healthy sales development. Since 2009 the brand has been on the up – then its annual case tally was 3.3 million and it ended last year on 5.4 million, which was a significant 17% increase on 2011 (The Millionaires Club). 

This makes it the world’s number two herbal bitter liqueur – and very much the brand with the momentum. 

Of course the cocktail has been a lifeline for many drinks categories and it’s easy to understand why – by mixing a spirit it becomes more drinkable. 

Drinkability is something that Herbal Nor, the Norwegian producer of Herbal Harmony, has taken into consideration – this is a herbal brew but without the bitter elements.

“We wanted to create something new into the market, a drink that was made of herbs but one that should be consumed as a good Cognac,” says Herbal Nor CEO Ståle Johnsen. “It’s also perfect for creating new drinks and cocktails.”

Herbal Harmony was 10 years in the making and was eventually launched in 2011 in its home market, Norway. It has since made its debut in Denmark, Germany, Belgium and China. The US beckons but Herbal Nor wants to find ‘the right importer’. 

“It’s very much a step-by-step approach to becoming an international brand,” says Johnsen. “Duty free is also interesting in terms of potential.”

It does seem likely that, in the future, more product development with herbs will be on the cards as the global demand for all natural products continues to grow. Also, there’s the belief that herbs ‘are good for you’ and arguably it’s this fact which has sustained the category over the years and certainly before the cocktail era. 

The going is far from easy and the traditional hubs for herbal bitter liqueurs – primarily Germany and elsewhere in Europe – have been contracting. But there is life in the likes of Russia and the old USSR countries and, combined with the potential the cocktail arena offers, producers can afford to be modestly optimistic.

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