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From heavy-bodied to light and dry to spiced and sweet. The change in taste of German rum consumers.

By Bastian Heuser

The German rum flavour was developed hundreds of years ago with the rise of Rum-Verschnitt, a mixture of high-ester rums from Jamaica and bland neutral spirit that quickly became immensely popular. 

Nowadays this style of rum can still be found, but it is the drink of the elderly, certainly not the drink of the young anymore. This style of rum, though, was what you used to get when you ordered rum in Germany. 

Bacardi took over the rum market in the 70’s with its light and dry style, and became the best selling rum brand in Germany. The brand opened the category for young consumers who identified with the lifestyle image the brand carried. But when the wall came down in 1989 things changed. A brand well-liked by East Germans quickly became highly popular in the West as well: The Cuban rum Havana Club.

Today it has overtaken Bacardi in sales in Germany and in fact, Germany remains the only country outside of Cuba where this has happened. During the past ten years, the German rum market has been dominated by the rise of spiced rum though. Although most of it not technically rum at all (“flavoured spirit“) statistically it does count within the category, and was responsible for the continuous growth of rum in Germany in recent years. 

An interesting parallel development is the rise of bourbon and sweetened and spiced American whiskies. Just like spiced rum these spirits are sweet. Coincidence? I personally do not believe so. After the vodka era the (young) consumer palate seems to be thirsty for sweet spirits. This global development also has reached the premium sector of the German rum market.

No matter if you like the brand and its development over the years or not, one has to admit that Zacapa led the way in marketing premium rum not only in Germany but also in a lot of other countries. One part of their smart marketing: the liquid in the bottle became sweeter over time and therefore appealed to many more consumers than before. And the best thing: it is the perfect upsell for those who were Captain Morgan Spiced consumers ten years ago that now have more money to spend on the spirit of their choice, but still like that sweet experience.

So what to expect from the German rum market in the next ten years? In my humble opinion: a lot more spiced rum for consumers between legal drinking age to 25, and more and more premium offerings of rums that will tend to be on the sweet side, and therefore appeal to consumers between 25 and 39 that haven’t grown up with dry and light Bacardi but with sweet and spiced Captain Morgan.

I sure hope history will prove me wrong.  

‘The views expressed above are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of WIRSPA Inc.’ 

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