Inquisitive Drinks: Rum Trends 2021

People in the drinks industry have been talking about rum becoming ‘the next big thing’ for a very long time. There’s been talk that the gin boom will start to drop off, but as we know from our previous ‘Gin Trends’ blog, it’ll be a while before this happens.  Rum is already a  large drinks category in the UK (currently £840m per year) with over 10m bottles sold in 2019 and will continue on its own journey regardless of what’s happening in other areas.

1. Premium is driving growth

The figures show very encouraging trends within the rum market. The number of rum brands in the UK has gone from 50 in 2009 to over 200 in 2021. The amount people are spending on rum is increasing (it is now set to be £12.33 per person in 2021). The rum market is set to grow by 9% in 2021.

In the UK the transformation has been in the premium end of the marketPremium-and-above priced rums have seen volumes soar by more than 140% in just five years and these higher-end rums now make up around 10% of the market.

2. More than big brands

Like every drinks category, the big names in rum such as Bacardi, Havana and Captain Morgan still dominate the volume of sales. In fact the number of people who consumed Barcardi tripled between 2018 and 2019. But it’s great to see more independent brands emerging – many of them being homegrown brands.

We still see plenty of brands who import their rums into the UK, then blend or add spices – a good example of this is Tidal Rum who import rums from the Carribean and add their own unique local twist (although they are not strictly UK based coming from Jersey). Now, there are some new, exciting, UK-distilled rums starting to spring up.

3. Made in the UK

Innovation has been a feature for categories such as gin, and more nations are starting to produce great whiskies.  Why shouldn’t UK distilleries start to innovate around botanical rums like the fantastic Market Row rum from Brixton…

…or start producing rum from scratch? Greensand Ridge in Kent is one such distillery. They’ve been producing their own rum from UK molasses for the past three years using waste molasses (a by-product from sugar manufacturing) from the Tate & Lyle sugar factory.  

Two Drifters is another distillery, from Devon, that’s taken on rum production from scratch. And they’re growing very swiftly, illustrating that demand for domestically produced rum is on the rise.  

Matugga Rum, who moved their production from the English Spirit Distillery (the same as Old Salt Rum), is now distilled in Scotland. East African ingredients, West Indian influence and English oak make their rums showcase how fusing traditions can work, even when the maturation takes place in a much chillier country! They show that British rum can bring together various ingredients and influences to produce a world-class tipple.

4. How to drink It

In lockdown, people have been consuming more rum at home. In fact rum was dubbed ‘the drink of lockdown’ in Harpers. Between April and June 2020 38% more rum was sold in retail compared to the same period in 2019. But what serves have we been turning to? G&T is already an established serve, premiumised just at the right time by Fever Tree tonic, but what about rum?

A report by analyst CGA said there is “relatively little” awareness of the potential to drink rum neat, or paired with juice, ginger ale or other options. Four out of five drinkers consume rum with cola (51%) or diet cola (32%), a CGA survey in March 2020 found.

Coca Cola have tried to innovate in the dark spirits sector recently with the launch of their Signature range.  It’s a welcome addition to the at-home drinker’s mixer options. There are now other great examples of mixer brands that have liquids that are fantastic to mix with rum – think Sekforde Drinks & Lixir Blood Orange and Cinnamon Tonic.

As the rum market continues to grow, will rums tailored to the mixer market follow the same path?  Premium rums in this segment is where we see big gains to come from the rum category.

5. Next steps

Consumer awareness will always drive growth in the premium section of a category and that’s what’s happening with rum. Sipping rums will become more common and people will be prepared to pay more for them.   

Also, younger consumers in the UK are driving sales of flavoured and spiced rums over those of white and dark rums. In 2019, over 50% of the UK rum market was in this category.

The days of people just using white rum to make mojitos are gone. Consumers are now willing to spend more on rum, looking for more interesting flavours and even buying super-premium rums to invest in.