Inquisitive Drinks: Gin Trends 2021

There’s been a well-documented rise of the gin category over the past few years. That’s come with speculation around its decline as it has kept on growing.  Debate over when the ‘gin bubble’ will burst has been rife within the industry, with this recurring question: what category will be ‘the next gin’?  Will 2021 be the year when the gin category starts declining?  


The answer is no. The category sales will actually grow until at least 2023 , with a 4.4% growth between 2018 and 2023. Some markets will experience slower growth (for example Spain will decrease slightly), but it’s still remarkable growth considering how large the category already is. So the overall global picture is still rosy!  


The UK market is a barometer of the global gin market. You can see why: domestic customers bought 6m cases of it in 2018. Those annual sales will rise to 10 million cases in 2023.  The market remained resilient in the face of COVID-19 too. With bars and restaurants closed, consumption shifted to physical and online retail. Consumers bought 10 million extra bottles through retail compared to 2019.  In the dark days of lockdown, Britons were finding comfort in a well loved drink – gin. 


Beyond numbers, what can we expect from the gin market in 2021?    


1 – Premium gins will be driving growth


Consumers looking for premium brands are driving the market growth. Just like the beer market, there’s a craft revolution in gin. So the main value brands aren’t the ones driving growth. Premium, super premium and ultra premium gin brands are all in double digit growth. Gins becoming more premium is a long term trend. It’s not going to finish any time soon, even in the face of a global pandemic.  


The number of UK distilleries drastically increased in the past decade. It went from around 160 in 2013 to over 440 in 2020. So consumers are looking for unique spirits with great stories.  Many consumers buy into a brand because it is produced locally. That’s a trend that will continue, not only in the UK but around the world too.  


2 – Brands will seek to differentiate themselves


There are hundreds of gin brands available to consumers in the UK, with more coming onto the market every year. So it’s increasingly difficult for producers to make gins that stand out from the competition. So what have producers done to differentiate themselves?



The answer has come in the form of flavoured gins. Flavoured gins – in particular pink gins – have been a firm favourite with consumers. That’s particularly the case with the under 45s . Pink gins have been driving much of the growth in the past 3 years and now even the super premium producers have started to enter the category, just look at what Salcombe have done with Sainte Marie or Manly with Lilly Pilly.  


As well as pink gins, distillers are pushing the boundaries with the botanicals that they are using and the distilling process itself. Just look at how the French distillery Comte De Grasse is innovating with production techniques, blending perfumery methods with gin distilling.  Expect to see more innovative and wonderful botanicals and distilling methods cropping up in 2021.  


3 – Producers will continue to adapt


COVID-19 disrupted the UK on-trade market in 2020 with lockdowns and bars and restaurants closures. That removed producers’ main distribution channels for their brands. Meanwhile consumers quickly picked up the slack and spent big on gin in physical and online retail. So producers have adapted to target the B2C market. They digitalised, engaged more via social media, ran virtual tastings and embraced e-commerce, Bullards Gin have been particularly innovative in this area with their eco pack refill and bottle for life. Producers connected on a much more personal level with their consumers. This will continue in 2021.   


4 – The market will consolidate


Just like the craft-beer movement, multi-nationals are now starting to invest into the most successful independent brands. An example is Diageo’s purchase of Aviation Gin for $610m in 2020. Pernod Ricard also continues to be very active in acquiring brands, including Malfy Gin, Amazoni and more recently Inverroche from South Africa.  Consolidation within the category will continue and brand owners will be hoping for big payouts in the next few years. So you can expect to see more distilleries opening up and new brands launching in the market!  


So gin is still an exciting category to be a part of: dynamic, innovative, resilient and constantly evolving.  2021 will be another tough year for the industry, but gin will be leading the fightback.