Cream liqueurs

An unfamiliar face has designs on the cream liqueurs crown. Lucy Britner flings the saloon doors open on the sector

There’s a new kid in town, making an entrance in a tall white bottle with blue livery, toting natural ingredients and an unmistakably yoghurty aroma. 

Through the saloon doors steps Bols Natural Yoghurt Liqueur. A creamy white, sweet and sour addition to the liqueurs category – and Bols’ bulging armoury of offerings. You can almost hear the cream liqs at the bar saying: “You ain’t from round here, are you?” And, well, it’s hard to decide whether a yoghurt liqueur has a place in a cream liqueurs feature. It’s an innovation, there’s no doubt about that. 

The brand is already present in several global markets including China, Russia, Ireland and Bulgaria and it was launched in the UK earlier this year where it retails for £10.95 in off-trade. It will also be available in the on-trade. 

Distributor Maxxium UK’s marketing controller for specialities, Johna Penman, said: “Lucas Bols is the first and only company in the world to launch a 100% natural yoghurt liqueur. It provides a fresh and natural alternative to traditional cream liqueurs.”

Traditional cream liqueurs are plodding along, with Euromonitor predicting fairly sluggish growth between 2012 and 2016 – 138,548 million litres in 2012 up to 143,534 million litres in 2016.  But growth it is. And it’s no surprise to note that Diageo is the number one producer, with Distell in second place (Euromonitor). In fact, Drinks International’s Millionaires 2012 cites Baileys case shipments at 6.8m for 2011. That’s up from 6.7m in 2010.  

Anna McDonald, liqueurs category director for Diageo North America, says: “In 2011 and 2012, the cream liqueurs category experienced growth in the US national market. This growth is inclusive of Baileys. As the category leader, the brand team on Baileys has always wanted to ensure they’re helping to drive category growth and understand today’s consumer and what they’re looking for.  

“Diageo is playing a big role in expanding and strengthening the category with innovations such as Qream with a Q and alliances such as Godiva Chocolate Infused Vodka which illustrate the potential of the category.”

But brand leader Baileys hasn’t had it easy in every market. The cream liqueur took a hit in financially unsettled western Europe, though it managed to stay flat thanks to other parts of the world. 

McDonald adds: “During the six months ended 31 December 2011, despite the difficult consumer environment in western Europe where volume and net sales were down 11% and 9% respectively, overall Baileys net sales were flat as strong performances in all other regions offset these declines.”

McDonald attributes these ‘strong performances’ to the Baileys Let’s Do It Again campaign together with limited-edition bottles by jewellery designer Stephen Webster and Christmas visibility. The Stephen Webster bottle was a Baileys Original Special Edition that launched in Russia. She adds: “The successful launch of the new Biscotti flavour partially offset the decline in flavours.”

However, Diageo GTME marketing manager Chin Ru Foo says recent flavour launches have been a “great success” in travel retail. 

“Our two most recently launched flavours, Biscotti and Hazelnut, have been a great success and have complemented our established favourites, Caramel and Coffee. The most significant activation of 2012 so far has been the retail launch of Baileys Biscotti Flavour. This launch married the Irish roots of Baileys with the highly popular Italian coffee culture. 

“In travel retail, this was supported by a campaign which encouraged consumers to Dip Into the New Baileys Biscotti. This was activated in key locations from Heathrow to Sydney airport. It was also activated in smaller locations with pop-up bars and creatively merchandised spaces.” 

Distell’s Amarula also cited travel retail as an area for growth. The 2012 Millionaires rankings put Amarula’s case shipments at 1.3m in 2011 – up from 1.2m in 2010. Senior global marketing spokesperson Siobhan Thompson says growth has accelerated with buoyant sales in Africa, Europe, the Americas and the duty free channel.

She adds: “Even in South Africa, our longest-standing and most established market, the brand is delivering excellent growth. This is despite the state of the economy and the advent of several me-too options available to consumers. Germany, another of our more mature markets, also continues to reflect very sound growth off a strong base.”

Established markets aside, cream liqueurs aren’t that different from other spirits categories, with emerging markets representing a huge amount of excitement for the creamy sector. 

Amarula’s Thompson says: We are seeing very promising results from developing markets such as Nigeria and Angola as well as Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.”

Diageo’s Foo says emerging markets are important to Baileys. He adds: “The brand is performing well in these, both in domestic and travel retail.”

Austrian liqueur brand Mozart, which has cream brands including Mozart White Chocolate Cream and Gold Chocolate Cream, sees growth potential in emerging markets as well as a few old favourites. 

Anna Kruggel, Mozart brand manager, says: “We see huge growth potential in Russia, the US, Japan and China as our partners in those countries directly name a big demand for our chocolate spirits. 

“Of course, the shipments to countries which have to fight against the financial crisis at the moment, such as Greece and Spain, have decreased, But this is to be seen in relation to their economy. We also have to consider the season of the year – summer [in the Northern Hemisphere] is a time when people ask for fresh, fruity drinks.”

Moving forward

Fruity cream liqueurs could be the answer to less seasonally-focused purchasing patterns, perhaps. Diageo’s Qream with a Q, which launched in 2011, also made the most of celebrity influence. The company teamed up with music star Pharrell Williams to launch a strawberry and a peach variant.

Diageo’s McDonald says: “Qream with a Q launched in the summer of 2011 in alliance with Pharrell Williams with events across the US, tapping into William’s creativity as well as leveraging his rank at the forefront of music, art, style and culture. It is still in early states of launch with our primary goal of doing tastings around the brand to build awareness.” 

Building brand awareness is also on the agenda for Distell and the company  is already spending the fruits of its success on a new international advertising campaign. And who’s going to front it? An African supermodel of course. In what the brand describes as its “boldest marketing move yet”, African supermodel, humanitarian and designer Alek Wek (above) is to be the face of its new advertising campaign, scheduled for launch later this year.

Wek is to launch its TV, print and digital campaign this summer.  This is the first time Amarula has engaged an international celebrity for the brand. Thompson says: “We chose Alek Wek for her ability, like Amarula, to encapsulate what it means to be an African original.  She is a natural, charismatic beauty with a unique and compelling presence. She embodies the grace and poise of Africa with an ability to succeed wherever she goes.”

On the Baileys front, there’s no fruit yet, but as Foo says, it’s not unthinkable: “In terms of new flavours on the horizon, let’s just say the Baileys brand family is like any family – there could always be a new addition.”

For the flavours of Baileys that already exist, pouring over ice cream is an at-home trend in the US which follows trends for drinkable and mini desserts, according to McDonald. 

In the on-trade, according to the Cheers On Premise BARometer Handbook 2010, Baileys is the number one most popular dessert drink. And “roughly 40% of Baileys consumers drink it in coffee”. Other than that, Foo sees innovation in terms of packaging as a possibility. He mentions the Stephen Webster bottle again, adding: “The design generated great stand-out and brand-visibility and reinforced the image of Baileys in this key emerging market [Russia} as a stylish brand associated with high-class design.”

Mozart’s Kruggel says consumers look for two things from the cream liqueurs category. 

She says: “The global trend follows the consumer demand for a variety of flavours on one side and on the other the consumer is looking for an authentic product with as many natural ingredients and as few artificial ones as possible.”

Which brings us neatly back to Bols and its Natural Yoghurt edition. Whether it’s truly a cream liqueur or not, it has certainly added a new dimension to the category. Naturally.