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Master of Malt turns focus on trade sales

Published:  04 February, 2020

Online spirits retailer Master of Malt is looking to increase trade sales as a primary area of growth for the business in 2020.

It will look to raise the profile of its Master of Malt Trade arm, using its vast product range to attract new customers and yield more sales from existing ones.

The trade push will be a main focus for the business under new boss Jason Hockman.

He joined Master of Malt as head of commercial last June from Tesco, where he was head buyer for electrical products.

Hockman has now been promoted to general manager for online operations across Master of Malt’s parent company Atom Group.

“We need to get to know our trade customers a bit better,” said Hockman.

“We’ve got loads of data and we want to cut that to target customers more directly in terms of what they want and what will help them.

“We’ve got 10,000 SKUs and someone who runs a bar or a restaurant hasn’t necessarily got the time to go through 10,000 SKUs.

“If we can help them to do that we think that sets us apart. We need to be out there talking to key customers about what we’ve got and what our USP is in the market.”

Master of Malt buyer Guy Hodcroft said he expected growth in direct-to-consumer sales from mezcal, non-flavoured vodka and rye and single malt American whiskeys in 2020.

Master of Malt’s vodka sales grew 36% in 2019. “Only 10% of our best-selling vodkas are flavoured,” said Hodcroft. “When I joined the trade many years ago there were four gins and 96 flavoured vodkas. It’s now almost the reverse.

“Consumers expect their gin to be flavoured with something other than juniper, and preferably pink or purple, but they would like their vodka to taste of vodka again.

“We’re seeing smaller brands like Chase and Black Cow growing at a really nice rate.”

Sales of “non-Bourbon” US whiskey grew 62% last year for the retailer, with premium products proving resistant to the tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by the EU on American whiskey imports last year.

“It’s hit more at the bottom end of the market,” said Hodcroft. “£2.50 on a bottle of Jack Daniel’s goes a long way, but £2.50 on a £120 rye doesn’t really touch the sides. We’re seeing a slight slowdown at entry level.”

Hodcroft said hard seltzers – the current growth phenomenon of the US drinks market – were also likely to go big in the UK.

“We got out first hard seltzers in stock two weeks ago and sold out within 24 hours,” he said.

“It shows the demand is there. It’s in that interesting no-and-low space, around 5% abv – it’s convenient, grab-and-go, and taps into so many consumers trends.”