Bitters: Wind back in its sales

27 June, 2014

interest in Italian bitters and liqueurs in the on-premise channel.”

Significantly Averna has enjoyed double digit growth in the US for the last five years now and is confident that they can do even better. “We are sure that more dormant markets in Europe will soon wake up from their relative stability and Britain will be the bridge between the States and the European market,” says Jordens. The good news is that the international bartending community ‘embraces’ brands, regardless of marketing, and being interconnected their enthusiasm spills into many countries round the world giving new impetus to brands, like Averna, in the spotlight. “So we are very positive that pollination will soon take place,” says Jordens.

Bombing the market 

Interestingly this move to emphasise the versatility of bitter brands has yet to influence the global number one that is Jägermeister. Instead through dint of its instant icing machine and frozen serve the brand has attracted a huge band of new younger consumers to the category. The frozen serve was forged Stateside by the legendary Sidney Frank Importing – and 

it has established the US as Jäger’s prime stronghold, where it sells well in excess of 2.4 million cases and is now ranked in the top 30 millionaire brands (The Millionaire’s Club 2014). 

Its home turf, Germany, follows suit accounting for 20% of annual volume, and then it’s the UK – and that’s why Jäger has been making the headlines yet again. 

Aside from its continued export expansion – it’s now available in more than 100 markets – and the launch of Jägermeister Spice last year the company has decided to set up its first wholly owned distribution subsidiary in the UK. “It’s a first and a big step forward,” says Guy Lawrence CEO of MAST Jägermeister UK. “In the UK Jägermeister is the third largest brand in the on trade, behind Smirnoff and Jack Daniels.”  

Initially the bitters brand was handled by the powerful agency house Cellar Trends and, while the UK does not boast a highly-tuned bitters markets, Jägermeister has gone from strength-to-strength as the figures demonstrate.  The distributor used the US marketing approach as its template – that is a heavyweight programme of promotional party nights in key on-premise outlets up and down the UK, starring the Jägermeister Tap machine which serves frozen shots. It’s at these nights that the Jäger Bomb, a mix of Jäger and Red Bull, became hugely popular. 

“Growth has been phenomenal, with volume increasing by more than 58% between 2002 and 2012 to 454,000 compared to a category growth of just a tad over 42%,” says Lawrence. “Jägermeister is driving the category.”

Clearly the UK subsidiary is going to have its work cut out to maintain this momentum but this is the company’s number one priority. To this end a massive £4m TV and cinema advertising campaign has been unleashed under the banner “It runs deep”. 

The main target is the ambitious urban male between 25 to 35-years-old, a notoriously fickle audience when it comes to brands, but the whole message of the advertising seems to point to a subtle change of direction – far from the party night spectacular this ad underlines the importance of bonds and friendship. It shows a group of surfers on a shot-fuelled trip in Iceland. It is clever stuff and quite thought-provoking.

“Considering Jägermeister is still in only 50% of UK on-trade outlets the potential is obvious and it’s one of the few spirits which has brand call,” says Lawrence. “We also have a lot to do developing it in the off trade – as we’ve taken the classic route by building a brand in the on-trade first.” This is underlined by the fact that 75% of Jägermeister’s volume is skewed in favour of the on-trade.

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Nick Strangeway

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