It’s no secret that Belgium is a country of gin-lovers. Over the last few years, the spirit has seen a consistent rise in popularity, yet it is the demand for premium and super-premium gin products that has really exploded. In line with developments in established European gin markets, such as Spain, Portugal and increasingly the UK, Belgium has witnessed a significant shift in consumer demand for the small batch, premium gins, especially from Britain.
This trade-up from high end standard and economy brands, is due to a number of factors. For example, an increased willingness to move away from Belgium’s traditional aperitif, champagne, has seen gin become the main beneficiary, while cookbooks by leading chefs, pairing gin with food, has contributed to increased awareness and consumers seeking out more niche, premium brands.
Highlighting the increased premiumisation in the Belgian Market, Chris Molyneaux, owner and master distiller of award-winning British small batch premium gin, Daffy’s, explains: “Gin is now a very mature category in Belgium, with sustained demand from both men and women. Today’s gin drinkers are more educated and discerning than ever before. The result being that for a new gin to break into the market, it must have outstanding quality and substance, if it is going to enjoy any long terms success with such a discerning audience.”
Launched in December 2014, before going on just six months later to win the prestigious IWSC Gold Medal, as best London Dry Gin, Daffy’s was late to market in Belgium. Nevertheless, the brand has gained great traction and is fast establishing itself in the country’s on and off trade outlets, with global sales increasing by 200% on last year’s results. Most rewarding of all, Daffy’s success is principally driven by word of mouth and excellent reviews from key industry figures, such as the respected mixologist Manuel Wouters, from Antwerp’s Sips.
The vibrant Belgian bar scene plays a crucial role in educating consumers and introducing them to new premium brands. Boosted by the craft movement, Belgium has a diverse rising cocktail culture. Customers, often in their late twenties/early thirties with a little more money, are switching away from traditional products in search of new ‘cooler’ products.
Molyneaux continues: “Demand for the quality, mainstream gins, found in supermarkets and at good value price points, remains solid, yet you cannot underestimate the value of positive word of mouth. Gin fans are proactively seeking out smaller, interesting premium brands in independent bars, stores and online shops.
“For Daffy’s, securing listings for our products in the right venues and retailers has been a key strand of our Belgian brand strategy. For example, we recently hosted a Daffy’s takeover night at Brussels’ Green Lab, which has the reputation as one of the best bars in Europe for its strong focus on great gins.”
As a category, the popularity of gin shows no sign of abating. Unlike spirits such as Single Malt Whisky, which can be perceived slightly intimidating to novices, gin as a category is very inclusive. It’s easy for people to get their heads around the different types, while at the same time there is a huge amount of market variation.
One area where smaller independents such as Daffy’s can maximise, is their ability to produce one-off, short-run limited editions. Capitalising on a flexibility that larger producers cannot afford, they can quickly and efficiently turnaround a new product to meet customer demand.
For example, in August, Daffy’s launched its first premium edition, a Manor Racing Daffy’s Gin, to celebrate the brand’s partnership with the Manor Racing F1 team. Having made its official national debut at Spa-Francorchamps circuit for the Belgian Grand Prix, the limited edition product has all but sold out in a number of weeks.
Molyneaux concluded: “The most crucial element in our success, and the premium gin category overall, is an unwavering commitment to quality. This means not only using only the best ingredients, but a genuine and considered approach to packaging and design, which will give your product standout behind the bar on the shop shelf.
“While it’s inevitable that today’s gin bubble will eventually pop, as other spirits once again become trendy, there is no doubt classic and cutting edge gin cocktails will always feature in a big way in all the best bars. That level of education and appreciation for gin that has grown in recent years will remain. Mixologists will always love a versatile gin and customers a perfectly served G&T or gin cocktail.”
For more information on Daffy’s, visit www.daffysgin.com Daffy’s can be purchased nationally across Belgium from GinTonic Shop gintonicshop.be and other independent retailers and bars. The Brussels Times