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New vodka brand unfazed by gains in gin

Published:  11 April, 2016

Launching a new spirit brand in today's crowded marketplace can be daunting.

According to figures from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), the value of gin rose by an intimidating 20% for the 12 months to December 26, 2015, for the on trade, rising to total value of £548m, with vodka lagging behind with only 5% growth.

But this hasn't put off husband and wife team Steph and Matt Brown from launching Wild Knight English Vodka, a sipping vodka made from barley grown in their home county of Norfolk.

The seed of their beverages company began in 2010 when Matt flew out to Mongolia for his brother's wedding, and vodka was such an integral part of the marriage ceremony that guests started the day by sharing a bowl of vodka.

Four years later they began work in earnest, and after perfecting their product with the help of an artisan distiller, launched their first batch in February.

And figures released by the WSTA show that now might actually be the right time to strike with premium brands.

Wild Knight English Vodka Martini Wild Knight English Vodka Martini

With vodka sales values currently increasing in both the on and off trade channels, it seems that customers are trading quantity for quality.

Vodka in the on trade for the year to December 26 is down 1% in volume to 177,000 hl, while value is up 5% to £1,900m.

There is a similar trend in the off-trade in the 12 months to January 30, 2016, with volume up by 2% to 637,000 hl, while value is up by 4% £1,200m.

Speaking of the current gin and vodka climate, Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, said:

"This is a hugely exciting time for all those in the UK gin industry which is experiencing a renaissance in the UK and internationally. There is huge export potential for this quintessentially British product and growth in the sector has really picked up momentum across Europe. The popularity of the WSTA gin trails in London and Scotland attests to this.

"Vodka still has a significant market share and sales by value are increasing in both on and off trade channels, so consumers may be taking the opportunity of hard-won duty cuts and freezes to trade up on quality. The market is very competitive and new products will always look to have a clear point of difference."

Despite the gains made by gin, vodka continues to dominate the market, with £1,900m in value for 2015 in the on trade compared to gin's £548m, and £1,200m in the off trade compared to gin's £401m.

Matt Brown said he and his wife intend to make Wild Knight stand out by staying away from gimmicks and focusing on quality.

"Lot of gins that we see are basically just flavoured vodka," he said. "There are so many new ranges entering the market place that we thought there was more scope to create something different with vodka. Some vodkas are quite harsh to drink and often other things are added to take away the harshness. But we don't do that. We've just focused on making a product that is the very best and purest that could we could make."