Liqueurs: Forever Young

Of course, innovation has always been at the heart of the sprawling and hugely fragmented liqueur market, and arguably the greatest innovation of all was the advent of Baileys Original Irish Cream – and that was more than 25 years ago. Boasting case sales of 6.5 million in 2012 (DI’s The Millionaires’ Club) Baileys easily remains the world’s leading liqueur brand and is the fifth best-selling brand in duty free, according to IWSR.

It’s only relatively recently in the brand’s illustrious history that flavour variants have been added, but the introduction of its Baileys Chocolat Luxe last year is being touted as the most innovative to date, as it is the first time that real Belgian chocolate has been fused with alcohol “in a way that delivers the multi-sensory experience of chocolate in a glass”. 

It was three years in the making and there were more than 830 attempts before the right mixture was born. It is only available in 50cl bottles, weighing in at 15.7% abv, and is destined to restore Baileys to its former glories – back in 2008 when annual volume was nudging 8 million cases.

The accessibility of liqueurs in terms of taste and easy drinking can also act as a way of introducing younger consumers to a particular spirit. It remains a moot point as to whether someone with a liking for Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey liqueur will take to Jack Daniel’s regular, but with something like tequila the strategy could well work, and Olmeca’s success is proof of the pudding.  “The challenge for tequila has always been attracting women, in particular those who have tended to shy away from straight tequila,” says Lisa McCann, international marketing director for Olmeca. 

To this end the first Olmeca flavoured liqueurs were introduced in 2011– and the strategy has worked, bringing new drinkers to the category “thanks to the sweeter, more accessible taste”.

Following growing demand from around the world Olmeca has since launched more flavours which underline and celebrate its Mexican heritage, including Coffee, Chilli and Dark Chocolate. “Initial feedback has been excellent as adventurous nightlife fans continue to seek out new and interesting drinks they’ve never tried before,” says McCann. 

To date Olmeca Dark Chocolate is “performing particularly well” in South Africa where it has been available since 2011 and also in Spain where it has experienced “strong growth” since its debut in 2012.

“In Russia – which is now one of the largest tequila markets in the world and where Olmeca holds number one status, Dark Chocolate was launched last November and initial feedback has been very positive,” says McCann. “We look forward to continued success following a national roll-out this year.” 

New flavours are clearly in the pipeline as Olmeca plans to expand its reach across Europe, into Africa and into China. Clearly when it comes to the liqueur there are no boundaries – and that probably explains why the category is burgeoning. But it will be interesting to see if the strategy of launching a liqueur variant of a spirit brand will be adopted by more producers or, looking at it another way, will we see Drambuie – that famous Scotch whisky liqueur – launch its own brand of Scotch whisky. These are indeed interesting times.