Spicing up the rum category

Highlighting the spicy notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla in rum should be a more approachable flavour push for retailers than the traditional gin botanicals of juniper, orris root and angelica.

It’s no surprise then to see that sales of flavoured and spiced rum are continuing on their upward trajectory, with 35% growth in 12 months; the category now represents more than £200 million of total rum sales, according to the Wine & Spirit Trade Association Market Report, December 2020.

There are all kinds of exotic flavours of rum now appearing, but could too much choice pose a challenge for retailers?

Rum as a whole, but flavoured and spiced in particular, did well in the off-trade through the pandemic in the UK, say producers. Many introduced new variants last year and these have already found a foothold in the off-trade.

Liam Manton, co-founder of Alderman’s Drinks, the producer of Arlu rum, says spiced and flavoured rum is flying. “Arlu Passionfruit & Mango is our most popular SKU. It is also helping consumers to put twists on classic cocktails, such as the Mojito or Negroni.”

And Copalli Rum’s recent launch of Copalli Cacao has been a huge success, according to brand consultant David Wallwork.

He says: “We saw lots of love from traditional rum drinkers and new consumers coming into the category.”

Nick Gillett, managing director of Mangrove UK, which recently launched Aluna Coffee, following the success of Aluna Coconut, says: “We have several consumer engagement campaigns planned for the new variant this year.

“Obviously 2020 was a strange year and sales of our brands exploded in the channels that were open. We saw the more premium variants of ranges such as Don Q do very well in the independent retail and ecommerce areas, while brands such as Aluna Coconut enjoyed a stellar retail performance.”

Becky Davies, head of commercial at Ten Locks, says the rum category, like gin, is becoming extremely diverse with “a pipeline of innovation” driving consumers to experiment.

She says: “Consumers are particularly attracted to spiced rum because of its versatility and it being an accessible part of the category. The sector has seen an incredible amount of growth and this will continue.

“There’s a real opportunity for retailers to capitalise on dark rum, too, especially as they can bring consumers into the category and trade them up in the longer term, with more premium offerings.”

Ten Locks has three rums in its portfolio: Nusa Caña, which draws on flavour profiles from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, using nutmeg and cloves combined with ginger, coffee, cacao and pineapple; Diablesse rum, which “celebrates authentic, unique rums of quality and provenance” from the Caribbean. The range features a Clementine Spiced rum. The third collection in the Ten Locks portfolio comes from the Salford Rum Company.

Davies says: “The category is diverse and that is a good thing. Our rum brands are eclectic: Salford rum is distilled in Manchester; Diablesse rum is Manchester-based, but was born out of a love for the Caribbean and a yearning to do something different; Nusa Caña is distinctly Indonesian, and explicitly works to resurrect a longstanding but perhaps overlooked history with rum.

The point is, there’s an incredible amount of innovation and as long as it’s done well and to the best standard that services the category, there’s room for all.”


One of the category leaders in flavoured rum is Dead Man’s Fingers from Halewood Artisanal Spirits. Marketing director James Stocker claims the brand is the fastest growing in spiced and flavoured rums and sits within the top 10 performing brands in this sector. The brand delivers £11.2 million year on year, he adds.

Halewood bolstered the range last summer by introducing new flavours: Hazelnut, Passionfruit, Lime, Mango and Pineapple. It also added a limited-edition range of flavours in the run-up to Christmas – Dragon Fruit, Banana, Cherry and Liquorice & Blackcurrant – which were sold in bespoke Dead Man’s Fingers skull jars.

Stocker says: “We have maintained solid growth for the Dead Man’s Fingers rum range through the off-trade, and also through our ecommerce site, The Drop Store.

“Despite the pandemic, there’s been a lot of innovation from the brand over the past 12 months. We also recently announced the launch of our 1.75-litre sharing bottles across our Spiced, Pineapple, Mango, Raspberry, Passionfruit and Lime variants, a move that was very much in reaction to ongoing calls from Dead Man’s Fingers fans on our social media channels.”

La Hechicera also pushed on with its innovation pipeline last year. The producer launched its second limited edition, Serie Experimental No 2, The Banana Experiment, which is made using its fine aged rum infused with sundried bananas; and the La Hechicera Mojito Cocktail Kit.

Managing director and co-founder Miguel Riascos, says: “In 2020 our brand was resilient. We can attribute this to our two innovations. Both of these products performed well in 2020. “The Banana Experiment is special in that it pays homage to the heritage of the Riascos family, who were banana growers before embarking on rum making. As we didn’t have the opportunity to engage with consumers and customers face to face in 2020, this product really allowed us to share our brand story through our liquid.

“As the pandemic continued last year, at-home cocktails also remained a popular option for consumers looking to recreate that on-trade experience in their own environments. Our Mojito Cocktail Kit played directly into this trend.

“We have some exciting brand news for 2021 and do plan to continue with our innovation pipeline.”

Jessica Smith, marketing executive at Continental Wine & Food (CWF), says in 2020 the company introduced Jolly Roger, a range of flavoured rum liqueurs.

She says: “After trialling different flavours that work well with rum and researching consumer trends, we launched three complementary flavours: Vanilla, Honeycomb and Roasted Pineapple. All are infused with authentic Caribbean rum to produce wonderfully rich, sweet, and spiced rum liqueurs.”


New variants also came from Spirited Union Distillery last year. The producer launched four botanical rums: Queen Pineapple & Spice, Sweet Orange & Ginger, Pink Grapefruit & Rose and Organic Coconut.

A number of consumer trends have been driving interest in and sales of flavoured and spiced rum.

Arlu’s Manton points to the rise in consumers wanting to recreate high quality experiences at home during lockdown. As a result of this, innovative products, such as at-home cocktail kits, have seen a huge increase in sales, he says.

He adds: “There is also strong consumer demand for craft spirits, with people wanting to try top quality products that have been especially crafted to make them taste great. Arlu rum is imported all the way from the award-winning Demerara Diamond Distillery [Guyana] and meticulously blended with unique flavours and spices in the heart of Manchester.”

Wallwork says Copalli is “bringing clean rum and pure ingredients to the table” and consumers are drawn to the producer’s focus on conserving its rainforest home. In addition, he says, rum makes “an excellent base” for both classic mixers and easy to serve cocktails.

“Rum tastes good. And it’s a category which delivers great serves, which put smiles on faces. We need some of that. There’s also a lot of new choices out there, such as Copalli.”

Looking ahead, Wallwork thinks 2021 will see “firstly, a lot of Daiquiris and secondly, a lot of innovation – in brands, flavours and serves”.

Halewood’s Stocker says at-home drinking has led to people becoming a lot more experimental with their drinks choices, and this has impacted the rum category.

“Whether that’s for putting a spin on classic cocktails, such as a Hazelnut Rum Espresso Martini, a Lime Rum Mojito, or a Passionfruit Rum Pornstar Martini, or even enjoying with a simple mixer, Dead Man’s Fingers rum, with its 10-strong line up, lends itself perfectly to this trend.”

He adds: “We don’t see this flavoured trend slowing down any time soon, particularly as we approach the spring/ summer season, and shoppers seek out fruity, tropical flavours to make a variety of cocktails for barbecues and home entertaining.”

Others also highlight the raft of innovation in flavoured rum, which is helping to drive interest.

Spirited Union Distillery founder, Ruben Maduro, says the producer believes consumers want “natural, authentic and real flavours”.

He says: “When we launched our botanical rums over four years ago, we could see rum moving away from tradition, becoming more driven by flavour innovation.”

Mangrove’s Gillett agrees that consumers are looking for “genuine authentic rums with natural flavours”, and he adds that flavours such as pineapple have done well. He says: “We are seeing a huge amount of innovation in flavoured and spiced rum at the moment and almost any flavour is being added with mixed results.

“We have also seen a challenge around the amount of added sugars, hence the uptake in the natural, toasted, coconut-flavoured and low-sugar Aluna. Its Coffee variant combines with Coconut for a truly stunning liquid.

“Dark Matter Spiced, produced in Scotland’s first rum distillery, has a great flavour profile with consumer-friendly flavours of spice, ginger and peppers.

I think we have seen a shift in ethical purchases too and the emergence of UK produced rums, which are interesting.”

Ten Locks’ Davies also highlights ethically minded consumers who she says are increasingly looking for brands that work towards positive change in some way.

She says: “This could be supporting sustainable producers, profiling the overlooked or marginalised, or championing brands that place provenance, heritage or family at the heart of what they do.

“Our three premium rum products are conscious brands that push forward with purpose, be it through their ecocredentials in packaging, production process or distribution, or paying into the local economy, and sourcing of raw materials.”


The on-trade will no doubt latch on to the rum trends of 2020 and 2021 and adapt their cocktail menus accordingly, so how should retailers maintain consumer interest in rum?

CWF’s Smith, says retailers need to put special editions, WIGIGs and themed products at the forefront of their offering.

She suggests retailers think about formats and categories that drive sales during peak periods, including gift packs and big-night-in brands.

She adds: “Retailers should also merchandise pairings and bundles for ease of purchase, for example next to rum you could stock some cola or lemonade for mixers and fresh limes to garnish.”

Manton says flavoured rums that allow consumers to create tasty cocktails, as well as cocktail-making kits, will help maintain consumer interest.

He adds: “As better weather approaches, there’s lots of opportunity to offer high quality RTDs too.

Consumers also want to support local brands, so to maximise sales, retailers should work regionally and champion fast-growing brands. In fact, many already do.

“We’re expecting consumers to want to support smaller brands, especially unique British ones like ours.”

Riascos from La Hechicera predicts the premiumisation and at-home cocktail trends will continue.

He says: “We expect consumers will be excited to get out to their favourite restaurants and bars to experience some of their favourite brands in cocktails crafted by the professionals, but we anticipate consumers will still look to recreate cocktails at home, so enhanced retail, such as value-added packs, is one way to keep consumer interest.”

Davies at Ten Locks recommends retailers keep their rum offering fresh as shoppers are constantly looking for new and unusual options.

She says: “Ensure you stock a selection of on-trend drinks in creative packaging formats and presentation vessels, such as single serve, pouches and cans, to suit the changing needs of today’s evolving lifestyles and drinking occasions.

“Assess your rum range every season to stay relevant and to move with the times. What sells over summer for outdoor gatherings may not be as successful once the colder nights set in, so plan range reviews and bring in new lines to keep shoppers engaged and to show you are on top of the current trends.”

Spirited Union’s Maduro suggests retailers add multiple new flavours so that consumers can explore different tastes.


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