While spirits sales grow, cream liqueurs are in the doldrums. This year’s First Drinks Market Report put off-trade sales value in the 12 months to April 27 level with a year earlier, and volumes down by 3% (Nielsen). The performance contrasts with non-cream liqueurs, driven by a new generation of in-home cocktail makers, with sales up 14% in volume and 19% in value.
For most retailers, cream liqueurs are about market leader Baileys and perhaps a me-too, wine-based price-fighter – and not much else. But there are plenty of high quality and interesting products out there, as some retailers have found to their benefit.
The Whisky Exchange, London
“We try to have an interesting range across all spirit categories and cream liqueurs are no exception, but it is fair to say they’ve become a little less fashionable in recent years, especially with the attention given to non-cream liqueurs in cocktail making. We’ve got about 30 in all, going right up to a 1960s bottling of a Stock advocaat at £69.95, which is a lot of money for a cream liqueur.
“It’s easy to be dismissive of Baileys because it’s such a big brand, but what it’s done with the range extensions and packaging design on Chocolat Luxe and Orange Truffle has been important in generating interest in the category. Chocolat Luxe is doing really well – credit to Diageo for the lengths it went to scouring the world to get the right mix of chocolate. [The shop also stocks a rare, limited-edition Baileys created with the Felder Felder fashion house, which wraps the bottles in a leather-studded cuff. The bottle carries a £39.95 price tag].
“We also do well with Coole Swan – an Irish whiskey and white chocolate liqueur – which is flying. We’re one of the few retailers who stock it and whenever we do a tasting in the shop at Vinopolis it gets a lot of interest. Another popular product is Sangster’s, a Jamaican rum cream liqueur made by Wray & Nephew, which is exclusive to us.
“Cream liqueurs can be a hard sell but we put them out there in front of people for tasting when we can. If we have a rum feature going out by email we might include something on Sangster’s. Coole Swan has a slightly more female profile so we might include a line or two in a mailshot about Champagne or vodka.
“We also cover a variety of price points and do a range of bottle sizes, which is important.”
Stirchley Wines & Spirits, Birmingham
“What we always try to do as a business is not to specialise in one area of spirits but to have good choice in every sector of the market.
“There are always brands that are coming and going in the cream liqueurs market. We have a regular range of Sheridan’s, Amarula, Baileys, Tequila Rose, Thorntons Chocolate and Irish Meadow, then we’ll get other products in leading up to Christmas.
“Thorntons is doing very well for us, which could be to do with the name that’s behind it. Before Thorntons came along the chocolate cream market was really just Mozart, which we had for a while until it ran out of steam. It’s one we’ll probably get back in at Christmas because the bottle looks like a Ferrero Rocher – people like that at that time of year. I’ve got my eye on a couple of other things that I’d like to stock for Christmas.
“The category is very much geared towards Christmas and we sell a lot more then.
“We don’t go overboard on Baileys because its been undervalued in the wider market – it’s always on offer somewhere so that makes it a harder sell for us.
“There are a lot of interesting things coming on to the cream liqueur market, with several Scotch whisky distillers now introducing their own cream liqueur brands, such as Heather Cream [from Balblair] and Edradour.
“But cream is still very much dominated by Baileys as it’s a bit of a scramble between everyone else for a share of what’s left.”
“We have all the Mozart range, Baileys, Xanath [vanilla liqueur] and Amarula. It’s a significant market for us and really helped by the fact that we do substantial trade sales as well as retail.
“It’s still true that it’s a very female-oriented market and Christmas is always a big decider on how strong it is as category.
“It’s not something you see great sales on throughout the year but there is a big uplift in interest before Christmas.
“Last year we had a gift pack from Mozart featuring a full-size bottle of Mozart Gold and three miniatures of the other flavours in the range and it fair flew off of the shelves with us.
“This year there’s been a lot of interest around Baileys Chocolat Luxe so we’ve added that to the range as well.”