Innovation and New Product Development (NPD) are critical for the evolution of the drinks industry, whether by choice or by chance. Fortified wine is an early example of this fact, having been developed by adding a distilled spirit (typically brandy) to wine in order to preserve it during long sea voyages by ship. This was probably the first ever hybrid drink, created by necessity in the late 1600’s and as a result, becoming the starting point for a raft of NPD in drinks such as Port, Sherry, Madeira, etc.

So is it any surprise that new products are being created by companies whilst blurring and/or crossing the lines between categories to try to entice consumers nowadays….

The pursuit of new ideas is definitely nothing new and this can be exemplified for those interested through the book ‘That Sh*t Will Never Sell‘ (pictured above) by David Gluckman. He has helped to define the current drinks business with innovations created over the course of 45 years in the drinks industry and was the man behind brands such as Bailey’s Irish Cream, Cîroc vodka, Tanqueray Ten gin and many others. However, interestingly he also shares some of the ideas that never made it to the shelf in this book…

If interested to know more about David Gluckman, check the Inside the Cask Chat with him by clicking here.

“Because cocktail enthusiasts are eager to try something new and the market is driven by innovation, a surefire way to make a mark is to create something no one has done before,” Geoff Kleinman, founder of spirits magazine

Innovation in crossover New Product Development (NPD) seems to be on the increase, as reported also on The Grocer in December 2017 via the article ‘Why beer and wine makers are getting into spirits’ – click here for link (subscription required).

Crossover booze NPD can come out of a variety of different needs for producers, whether to create new demand or to help boost efficiency and to cut costs such as for Kent winemaker Chapel Down and their Bacchus gin and Chardonnay vodka, distilling neutral alcohol from their throwaway grape skins.

Sadler’s Ales also has been creative and opportunistic by moving into the spirits segment and launching Peaky Blinder Irish whiskey (pictured above), gin and spiced black rum, produced in honour of the BBC based TV historical drama and taking advantage of the subsequent exposure and increase in awareness.

Drinks producers are also experimenting and blurring the lines by bringing different drinks categories together into one product by choice. For the launch in 2012, Malibu established a global partnership with the R&B singer Ne-Yo, who “contributed with creativity to certain product development phases” and also to the brand’s “Smooth and Fiery” launch campaign. Josh Hayes, who was involved with Malibu Red (rum + tequila) as the senior brand manager at the time of launch says…

“If consumers were already mixing rum and tequila, we probably wouldn’t have done this. But we’re a fun brand, and we want to have fun.”

Another hybrid drinks product launched around the same time was ABSOLUT Tune, a mixture of vodka and sparkling New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wine (pictured below). Nuvo, is a similar hybrid product, combining vodka, sparkling white wine and infused with passion fruit nectar and claiming to be the world’s first sparkling liqueur. Even celebrities are getting involved, with Justin Timberlake’s Le Sutra, also a hybrid made from vodka and sparkling wine.

An example of an apparently popular hybrid product is Desperados Tequila beer (pictured below), the world’s first tequila flavoured beer, first launched in 1995. Note that this is not a ‘true’ hybrid product as it is beer with tequila flavouring rather than tequila itself.

Budweiser has taken it further by launching a beer product combined with a tequila-based Margarita cocktail in Bud Light Lime-a-Rita and Bud Light Straw-ber-Rita (pictured below).

There are a few examples of hybrid vodka products infused with cognac such as 20 Grand Vodka and the better known, Grey Goose VX (pictured below) from Bacardi.  The VX stands for Vodka Exceptionelle and it was originally launched through Travel Retail/ Duty Free outlets in 2014.

“Innovation has tended to rely on flavours and, whilst we have several great flavours with Grey Goose, we wanted to create something truly disruptive in this category.” Mike Birch, MD Global Travel Retail at Bacardi

Some new products disappear from the bar and store shelves, they are the failed NPD product propositions that fade away over time.

This may happen for many different reasons, such as objectives not being met during their launch phase; internal politics; lack of support investment to communicate message; poor distribution and partners; a ‘fail fast, fail cheap’ mindset. But this is also a question of time as other NPD may succeed eventually, if producers allow it to develop and evolve once the initial setbacks are overcome and learnings are taken into account.

There are no formulas for 100% guaranteed success when it comes to product innovation…

For reference, below is just a small selection of other examples of hybrid drinks products:

  • Vodquila (pictured above) – mix of vodka and tequila
  • Mangria (from US Comedian Adam Carolla) – mix of red wine and grape spirit plus fruit juices
  • Courvoisier Gold – mix of cognac and French Moscato wine
  • Courvoisier Rosé – mix of cognac and French red wine
  • Kahlua Midnight – mix of rum and coffee liqueur
  • Swordfish – mix of beer and Pussers rum
  • Smoke – mix of tropical flavoured vodka and Moscato wine
  • Exclusiv vodka – mix of raspberry flavoured vodka and Moscato wine
  • High West Campfire – mix of blended scotch, rye and bourbon whiskeys
  • Piedres Almas +9 – mix of mezcal and gin

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