With UK gin sales having topped £1 billion and the spirit restored as a staple item in the Office of National Statistics’ Consumer Price Inflation Basket of Goods after a 13-year absence confirmed, there are signs that new product development that could lead to further category growth.

According to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association British drinkers consumed around the equivalent of 1.12 billion gin and tonics last year alone, with sales up by 19% in the on-trade and 13% in the off-trade. Supermarkets have an increasing role to play in this developing category. In the last few weeks, Aldi’s £9.97 Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin was awarded a gold medal at the International Wine and Spirits Competition whilst, following the growth in popularity of pink gin, ASDA has announced a mulled gin cocktail kit as part of its forthcoming Christmas range.

“Over the last couple of years, gin has clearly been one of the world’s fastest growing spirits, not least due to an interest among consumers in exploring new ways of enjoying gin, with garnishes, tonics or in cocktails,” explains Caryn Gillan, Director of Category & Insights of category management and shopper management specialist Bridgethorne.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the growing enjoyment of different types of gin is going to slow down any time soon and, as the ASDA announcement indicates, suppliers and retailers are looking to exploit the trend with new variants and products. But, when it comes to category management, in order to take advantage of this trend suppliers are going to need to demonstrate that they understand and are able to meet both the shopper demand for gin as well as the retailer’s expectations.”

This, says Gillan, means suppliers developing optimal ranging solutions in order to stay relevant and present.

“In terms of category management, retailers are looking for leaner, stronger ranges that reflect and meet changing shopper demand and deliver choice but in the most business efficient manner. Many suppliers, though, still don’t realise that reviewing their ranges is one of their best chances to positively influence their working relationship with retailer so that both can benefit from delivering more accurately what the shopper is looking for.”

But, says Gillan, not enough suppliers either understand the process or have the skills in-house on how to influence the account decision process, how to increase or optimise shelf space for their products or how to build and interpret the information that will give them a competitive edge in their retailer relationships.

“Suppliers need to understand how their range functions as part of its category, whether their products, new or existing, are something for which a shopper would deliberately shop for or whether it is an impulse purchase. Then it is about analysing the range in the context of its category in terms of the shopper and consumer requirements and the competition. It’s important to get it right because the opportunity to input credibly to the retailer’s range review could be their only chance to influence range changes.”

Bridgethorne says it uses its 15 years of Range Review experience to work with retailers and suppliers across different categories to ensure they maximise opportunities within the range review process. According to the company, it helps retailers optimise range and space and helps manufacturers identify category growth opportunities for themselves and the retailer, and gain an internal view of their brand and own label opportunities. Bridgethorne uses its software-based best practice tools and processes to provide a platform from which to launch new products, defend current and gain new listings, and increase distribution on lines where merited.