On top of that, the 12-week run-up to Christmas saw 13% growth in sales, with a third of all tonic water (£28 million) for the year sold during this period.
Much of this can be attributed to the resurgence of gin. In fact, sales of gin shot up so much over the 12-week festive period (18.3%), that IRI equates this to a total of £136 million in retailers’ tills in the run-up to Christmas.
Martin Wood, head of strategic insight for retail, at IRI, says: “Gin is the spirit of choice right now and we don’t see this changing any time soon.”
And since the G&T is still the drink of choice for gin drinkers it looks like tonic has a fruitful future ahead.
BRANDS CASHING IN
One of the pioneers of premium tonics and mixers, Fever-Tree, hit the headlines last year when it announced that its full-year revenue for the UK was predicted to be 118% ahead of that of 2015.
Co-founder Tim Warrillow says: “Fever- Tree continues to gain market share in both the on and off-trades and, while we have experienced strong growth across all regions, our performance in the UK has been particularly notable, culminating in a very strong Christmas.”
Other established brands have also revealed plans to invest more to cash in on the growth in the premium sector.
Andrew Jackson, marketing director at Fentimans, says: “This year is set to be an exciting one for Fentimans as we look to introduce our portfolio of craft soft drinks to more and more people.”
And to keep up with the competition in this category, established tonic producer Britvic Soft Drinks recently unveiled a complete relaunch of its iconic Britvic Mixers and Juices range. Within this, its Indian Tonic Water has been refreshed with a reformulated product.
Annabelle Cordelli, brand marketing director at Britvic, says: “The relaunch marks a real commitment to quality for us.
“We have listened to our customers and shoppers to develop our great-tasting tonic to lift guests’ spirits – in both senses of the word. It’s a truly iconic tonic.”
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola European Partners invested in its Schweppes range of tonics and mixers last year with a full packaging revamp and a new look to “showcase its premium credentials to adult consumers”.
Trade communications manager Amy Burgess, says the new Schweppes design is “peppered with adult wit and humour to appeal to target consumers aged 30-plus”.
Another drinks company that has already seen success with its tonic is Global Brands. The producer has high hopes for 2017 for Franklin & Sons, which it says has seen “remarkable growth” over the past 12 months. The brand’s Indian Tonic Water takes quinine from Ecuadorian cinchona bark and sugar from British beet.
It was first established in 1886 but re-entered distribution in 2015. Over the next three months the premium drinks brand has promised eight new SKUs across tonics, mixers and soft drinks.
One of the trends emerging within the premium tonics sector is for lower-sugar/calorie options.
Within its Franklin & Sons portfolio, Global Brands already has a Natural Light version, which contains half the sugar and no sweeteners.
Similarly, bubbling in the background – as it’s currently only available in the on-trade – is the London Essence Company. The brand was recently revived by Wisehead Productions and the drinks have been created in partnership with renowned world bar experts. The low-sugar mixers come in at under 20kcal per 10cl and less than 4g per sugar per 10cl.
Another newcomer, Regency Tonic, has also been created to include very little sugar.
NEW TO MARKET: CRAFT CHOICE
At the end of 2016 Copestick Murray launched Spanish premium tonic and mixer brand Indi & Co into the UK and, according to Robin Copestick, it has already been a huge success.
“It is craft mixers at their best. It is small production but the family-run company makes a range of drinks including Lemon Tonic, Strawberry Tonic and Seville Orange. And, as opposed to traditional mixers where carbonated water is fused with powder, this is a macerated drink made using copper stills, so it makes a pure concentrate to mix with the carbonated water.
“People are taking more care with their drinks. If you are spending £30 to £40 on a gin, why scrimp on the mixer when it’s two-thirds of your drink?”
Copestick says one of the things independent retailers can champion with premium tonics is the mixing of drinks and the options available.
“We have suggested serves such as 75% tonic with the spirit and 25% bitter lemon, which gives a different flavour. Or strawberry tonic, which when added to gin makes an attractive pink colour.”