The UK leads the way for the global spirits market when it comes to innovation, marketing and general sophistication, according to suppliers polled in OLN’s annual Spirits Report.

The report questioned spirits suppliers large and small, established and new – including major operators such as Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Maxxium and William Grant – on all aspects of the UK spirits market, and found them bullish about the role the country plays in global spirits sales.

Luke Tegner, brands marketing director for Berry Bros & Rudd Spirits, said: “London continues to lead the way with New York. That said, we’re seeing great bars in other cities, such as Leeds, Bristol, Brighton and Glasgow, and each region has its own take on how it approaches cocktail culture.

“That’s the same overseas, with local flavours predominant in places as far flung as Hong Kong, Sydney, Tokyo, Moscow, Brussels, Barcelona and Hamburg. However, I believe that, essentially, where London leads, others will follow.”

Rachel Tranter, head of marketing and PR at the Cotswolds Distillery, added: “There are a huge number of distilleries and brands opening in the UK. Some are incredibly successful and some less so, but the ideas and innovation they stand for are a testament to the UK spirits market.

“We have some of the best on-trade in the world, which, coupled with a savvy consumer market, means there is a lot of room for new brands to really make their mark on the industry.”

But Bill Roberts, general manager and vice-president EMEA for Gallo, said: “There are some pockets of innovation, but generally it’s a little bit more limited or narrow in scope than some other places. There’s less of a cocktail culture here, so in terms of mixability it hasn’t been as bit a part of spirits’ past as you maybe see in other places.”

Others see the UK market as less innovative because the independent sector in both on and off-trades is smaller than in some other markets.

When it comes to marketing, suppliers said the UK’s creativity was unique and fewer marketing restrictions than in some foreign markets allowed the field to blossom. Others said the challenging consumer market has forced brands to up their game when it comes to marketing.

“The UK is an incredibly hard market to crack,” said Tranter. “Brands have to constantly market their products, network with the on-trade and spread the word of their spirit so it doesn’t get lost in the crowd.

“It’s not enough to have a greatquality product any more. Marketing is the key to longevity in the UK spirits market and brands have upped their game to respond to this.”

Emporia Brands chairman James Rackham said it is hard to compare different marketing styles. “Each market has its own needs,” he added. “We have the major brand campaign and craft spirit campaigns with dynamic elements to both – but in other markets, especially emerging markets, there are massive opportunities for new brands supported by seventies-style in-your-face brand marketing, which works.”

Sixty-three per cent of suppliers said the UK had a more sophisticated spirits market than most other countries around the world.

Tranter said: “The want for quality, provenance and uniqueness has resulted in some fantastic spirits being released on to the UK market.”

Read more news from our exclusive poll in OLN’s Spirits Report 2014