A way of life

Changing consumers

Pusser’s is distributed in 30 countries. UK brand manager Peter Thornton says: “Many years ago, the stereotypical drinker (in the UK) would have been an old ex-navy chap, heavily tattooed and with a beard. This has changed over recent years, although we are proud of our (Royal) navy links. Young bartenders really want to learn about rum – its history, heritage and provenance are all key factors,” he says.

Pernod Ricard’s Havana Club claims to have the largest aged rum factory in the world and is the only truly global Cuban rum brand produced in Cuba today. Global marketing director Nick Blacknell tells Drinks International: “The good news for rum is that it’s now becoming the entry point for new spirits drinkers and has certainly taken some of the share from vodka. That’s good for the category as they are starting in rum and if we can gradually educate them, the hope is that they will stay in rum and with Havana Club as they discover the incomparable quality and unique flavour profiles that our rums provide.

“There are an increasing number of rums on the market at all prices but particularly at the higher end of the category. This presents a real opportunity to target a highly diversified audience, from the young adults discovering cocktail culture nightlife through to the HNWIs who are interested in discovering new drinking experiences of real quality and authenticity,” says Blacknell.

“While it’s true that the rum category is currently the most under-premiumised spirit category, the opportunities for premiumisation are clear to see. As the middle classes around the world continue to grow, we’re seeing an increasing number of discerning drinkers with high disposable income who are looking for authenticity and crafted quality from their drinking experiences and, as a result, the ultra-premium/prestige end of the rum category has experienced rapid growth in recent years,” Blacknell adds.

Medina García de Polavieja says: “We want to promote the versatility of this spirit. We believe it is the consumer who must decide which is the best way to enjoy our distillates.”

Botran’s Quiñones sums up: “The rum category is going through a transformation, the perception of it being a fun party drink in the standard segment will continue as the big players continue their heavy investments towards that message. However, a growing number of discerning consumers are discovering that rum is much more, where quality, history, taste and origin play a big role; it has been taken seriously and that is why the growth trend is aggressive in recent years. 

No contradiction

Blacknell says: “We see no contradiction between enjoying a rum in a relaxed easy way and the underlying quality; in fact, it’s at the very heart of what Cuban rum is all about. Havana Club’s aged rums do deserve to be taken seriously in the context of them being recognised as among the world’s top luxury spirits – up there with the likes of scotch and cognac. 

“What they represent is a more relaxed and informal approach to luxury, in line with what today’s discerning drinkers are seeking. Presenting prestige Cuban rum – and Havana Club in particular – is a great opportunity to align itself as the perfect drink for such high-end occasions.”

Euromonitor’s Malandrakis concludes: “Rum’s future will remain firmly in the hands of the dark segment in the short to medium term. Premiumisation is already more than just a left-field niche trend and it will be the vehicle of choice for entering relatively underdeveloped markets with an infatuation with all things luxury, such as Russia. 

“Stripping out India’s temporary dent in the global figures, rum will be sailing the seven seas once more. And this time it will not in be a buccaneer’s barge but in a royal cruiser.”

As author Williams says: “Rum has been undervalued as a fine spirit. It is one of life’s pleasures that more people should share.” 

Anyone involved with rum wouldn’t disagree with that.