Cream liqueurs account for just a small portion of the drinks market, but convenience was its most promising channel last year, up 0.7% compared to the 0.5% drop seen in total grocery, according to William Grant & Sons’ Market Report 2015.
So what can retailers do to boost sales in the run up to Christmas?
WHAT’S HOT IN CREAM LIQUEURS
Baileys is the only cream liqueur to feature in the top 10 list of off-trade spirits in Great Britain, ranking ninth in value (WG&S 2015), and it’s a popular festive option.
But Mehmet Guzel, owner of Simply Fresh in Bethnal Green (which has won awards for its off-licence section), says it can be hard to compete with the supermarkets on brands such as Baileys at Christmas.
“The supermarkets sell it so cheaply that if I was to compete on price I would be selling it at less than cost price,” he says.
To counteract this, Guzel plans to focus on offering a more premium range this year than the average convenience store or supermarket.
“We know people come in for top-up shopping and our spirits sales can be good, so I will be rearranging the shelves and bringing some premium items down from the top shelves to make them more accessible in the run-up to Christmas.”
And despite the challenges his store does sell Baileys. He notes also that spirits gifts do well at Christmas. Luckily for retailers such as Guzel, Diageo plans to build on the relationship between Baileys and Christmas this year, according to business unit director for impulse and wholesale, Natalie Briggs.
“This will include providing a new 20cl counter-top unit to help retailers tap into the 13+% (September 13 2014, Nielsen) incremental sales opportunity through fractionals in convenience, with the smaller format decreasing the barriers to purchase,” she says.
Meanwhile, Diageo brought out Baileys Chocolat Luxe last year. It’s already the second most popular cream liqueur after Baileys Original.
“It’s been a real success for us,” says head of innovation GB, Louise Robinson. She explains it took three years to successfully fuse Belgian chocolate with the brand’s signature Irish whiskey, and cream. We have also moved it into a smaller bottle size (50cl) than the standard 70cl Baileys and retailers can charge a premium for this.”
EXPLORING NEW OPTIONS
The success of Chocolat Luxe proves there is potential in selling cream liqueurs. It also shows fans are keen on trying out new things.
One producer that can highlight uniqueness is Bols, which claims to produce the only yoghurt liqueur in the world. It says its Bols Natural Yoghurt Liqueur makes the perfect low-calorie mixer and is an easy base for cocktails, “such as the Skinny Colada or Strawberry Cheesecake”.
Christmas of course is a key time for trying new things, especially indulgent options. Martin Elliott, marketing manager for Dooley’s Toffee Cream Liqueur in the UK, says 40% of the brand’s annual sales are achieved in November and December.
“Therefore getting the brand in front of consumers is key over the festive period when consumers see cream liqueurs as an indulgent treat or present.” The brand also now has a new premium-look bottle.
Another producer hoping to tap into the popularity of cream liqueurs at Christmas is Quintessential Brands, which produces Irish creams. This October it launched Feeney’s Irish cream liqueur (rrp £12.50) into the UK off-trade, supported with marketing activity and serving suggestions.
“We know that Irish creams are enjoyed as a pre-dinner cocktail in an Espresso Martini, or as an after-dinner drink with ice or with coffee,” says global brand and marketing director Lizzy Johnson.
Similarly, Faye Oliver, category manager at William Grant & Sons, says the company has noticed a definite trend away from just drinking liqueurs neat.
“Consumers are now mixing with mixers such as lemonade,” she says. “The best products are those that provide a point of difference, different flavours, something unique, such as Warninks Advocaat and Warninks White.”
Meanwhile Dan Bolton, managing director at Hi-Spirits, recommends cross-merchandising premium lines at Christmas to encourage multiple sales. The company now sells Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cream in the UK. The brand was originally sold solely at the distillery gift shop but is now available for retail due to customer demand.
“It’s an indulgent cream liqueur offering excellent value for money,” he says.
It may also benefit from the increasing popularity of American whiskey, currently one of the fastest-growing spirits categories, up by 15.9%, (WG&S 2015).