Bitters: Wind back in its sales

Brand focus is this company’s mantra and Jägermeister is the centrifugal force – so there is little likelihood of broadening the distribution base by adding other brands. “We are great believers in focus – it’s very, very powerful and we have no intention of doing any other agency business,” says Lawrence.

Sticking with tradition

Another bitters force which is welded to the single brand focus is Underberg – the only bitters to be solely marketed in the distinctive single serve bottle. “Our portion bottle will never change. A big Underberg bottle is out of question,” says Andrea Baumgartner, international marketing director. 

The little bottle makes Underberg the perfect travelling partner so it’s no surprise that the travel retail and global duty free arena is the brand’s best market along with Scandinavia and the US. “The global duty free market is very important to us. Underberg is perfect for travellers. Firstly it does help to digest any kind of food and secondly it is an ideal travel size. We work hard on duty-free gifting and have come up with a new 15-bottle tin and an eight-bottle travel case for Dubai DF,” says Baumgartner. “We have an exclusive travel retail range which you will not find on domestic markets. We even do some items exclusively for certain customers.”

Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to the Underberg teams marketing approach and over the years – over 165 of them – the brand has developed a loyal band of consumers, which has held it in good stead during the economic downturn. “It’s a unique product which has many loyal fans around the world and that’s why we have not been affected by the economic situation,” says Baumgartner. “We were increasing our distribution and sales over the recent years and could win new partners worldwide.”

As to the coming year, this autumn will see the launch of the annual Underberg collector tin. The tin Edition 2015 is dedicated to the Netherlands, and the company is sticking with its Tops & More loyalty programme which has been hugely successful, since its inception back in 2002.  

In the scheme consumers collect tops which – when enough is in the pot – can be exchanged for Underberg glass table wear. Apparently the most popular item is the long stemmed Underberg glass.

So much like the product itself the bitters category is full of surprises. While there are successful signs of underlining bitters’ mixability using the cocktail as a springboard – even Jägermeister is now stressing what a good mix it is with either tonic or ginger beer – traditional brands like Underberg have remained true to the digestif slot. However, unless the company does move into the ‘big bottle’ it is hard to imagine bartenders attempting to flare with the single portion miniature.  

Just one word of caution though on the Jägermeister front. This brand is clearly the business on the club and bar scene across both sides of the channel at the moment – but it’s vulnerable. Copycat competitors are coming into the fray – like a brand called Fireball Stateside – which has been likened “to liquid cinnamon” – but it is beginning to raise its head above the parapet. 

Jägermeister’s prime target audience knows nothing of brand loyalty and the brand must stay at the top of its game in order to continue to attract its core consumers. This is a category, as the brand might say, that ‘runs deep’.