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German rum market – an analysis

By Bastian Heuser

The German rum market has been heavily influenced by its high ester rum tradition over hundreds of years. The city of Flensburg, in the northern coast of Germany, was a synonym for the so called “Rum-Verschnitt“, the blend of heavy rums high in esters and neutral alcohol of different origins (wheat, sugar beets, potatoes).

In 1965 the German rum market had a whopping volume of 36 million bottles of which 97% were Rum Verschnitt. It went down thirsty German throats primarily in forms of Grog, mixed with hot water or tea, sugar and a pinch of fresh lemon. Verschnitt is now under 3 million bottles a year and mostly used in cooking.

It wasn’t until the 70’s international rum brands such as Bacardi successfully turned the market toward a lighter style of rums and a different way of drinking: rum and coke.

Bacardi was immensely successful and quickly became the best selling rum brand in the western part of Germany. With the wall coming down in 1989, Germany became the biggest rum market in Europe (in terms of number of inhabitants and consumption per capita) and things started to change for Bacardi. The 90’s and the 00’s saw the quite impressive growth of Havana Club rum in Germany. 

Not only did Germany become No. 1 export market for the brand, but it also became the best selling rum brand in Germany overtaking Bacardi a few years ago. Parallel to this development, Germany just like (seemingly) the rest of the world developed an increasingly sweeter taste. Over the last 10 years, spiced rums – more than often not even technically rum, but flavoured spirits – entered the market and drove market volume of the category. Up to 90% of these spirits are sold off premises. The sweet flavour profile of spiced rum especially appeals to young people who do not appreciate the taste of alcohol.

At the same time companies started to build awareness for super-premium rum with the consumer by promoting brands as a connoisseurs’ choice. Not even 10 years down the road the super-premium category of rums is already recognized by connoisseurs as a good value for money-choice in comparison to increasingly expensive Whisky. A seemingly unstoppable flood of new products is firing up this category and it will be exciting to see if the German consumer will make the transition from rum and coke to sipping rums.

The German rum market has seen major changes in taste preferences over the last 60 years so the game has just begun for high quality rums.

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

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