Premiums Help Keep Struggling Rum Category Afloat


Despite a dip in sales, rum generated $2.3 billion in revenue last year in the United States for distillers as they continue to experiment with the spirit category.

Nearly 24 million 9-liter cases of rum were sold last year, down 3.1 percent from the previous year, according to the Distilled Spirits Council. Supplier revenues were down 1.3 percent during the same period.

“In recent years, distillers have experimented with flavored rums, making the category much more versatile in offerings,” according to DISCUS. “Flavored and spiced rums now account for over 55 percent of all rums sold. Today, consumers can enjoy rums that have been infused with natural spices, refreshing citrus flavors, raspberry and vanilla among other tasty flavors.”

Additionally, brands are launching more premium rums to meet shifting consumer preference, according to a report from Drinks Insight Network. DISCUS data show high-end premium and super premium sales were up 0.9 percent and 26.8 percent, respectively, last year from 2017.

Consumers are also looking beyond the Caribbean and willing to try rum from other places, such as the Philippines, and gold rum is expected to become more popular than gin and white rum by 2020, according to the report.

“Cocktails are believed to be behind the rise of rum,” the report added. “Tiki cocktails — typically made with rum and fruit juices such as Daiquiri and Pina Colada — remain the most popular rum cocktail options. However, as rum continues to grow in popularity, restaurants and bars are looking for new ways to satisfy consumers’ thirst for the spirit.”

Rum continues to play a role in the industry’s efforts to capture the millennial market, wrote Rob Davies in a report for The Guardian.

“Younger drinkers have a thirst for novelty and drinks companies are scrambling to slake it.” he wrote. “The result is a rise in so-called hybrid drinks, some of which make more sense than others. Then there is vodquila and rumquila — exactly what they sound like: hybrids of two spirits that, by rights, belong in different bottles.”

On the other hand, agave spirits such as tequila and mezcal could overtake rum, said Kristine Sherry in a post for the Master of Malt blog.

“Both the tequila and rum categories have worked hard to shake off a hard-partying image, but we reckon the signs are there that our collective perceptions of agave spirits will overtake rum as the next big serious sipper,” she said. “Why? Rum’s been trying to sort itself out for years, but the sheer number of agave brands commanding a following … give them the edge on the cool factor right now.

“What could be rum’s savior? Grown-up tiki,” she added. “But even so, we reckon 2019 will be agave’s year at the expense of rum.”

— BRANDON KLEIN, Ohio Tavern News