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The evolution of Simpsons Beverages

As Simpsons Beverages unveils a company-wide rebrand, we speak to managing director Caleb Simpson about the family business and the evolution of the flavourings market

Caleb Simpson Simpsons Beverages

When was Simpsons Beverages founded? What was the core of its product range when it launched? 

Simpsons Beverages was established in Blackpool in 1934 by my grandfather, sole trader William Herbert Simpson. The primary focus of the business was selling fizzy pop and herbal beverages door-to-door from his hand-painted van.  Over the next 30 years, this grew into a large delivery network from Fleetwood, across the Fylde to Preston. In the 1970s, the business sold its delivery arm in response to market conditions, and changed its focus to post-mix syrups and slush syrups. 

What does the company’s product range look like today?

We’ve come a long way since 1934 and today we are proud to be a global supplier of innovative drink flavours for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks across multiple categories from flavoured spirits, liqueurs and premixed cocktails to carbonates, premium adult soft drinks, milkshake syrups and coffee syrups.  

Flavour compounds used in the commercial manufacture of flavoured alcoholic beverages is a key focus for our business.  Typical customers include spirit brands, distilleries and breweries together with bottling and canning companies.

At Simpsons, we recognise that manufacturing flavoured alcoholic beverages is a complex process. We can help to streamline production by supplying all the ingredients required in a pre-blended liquid compound, ready to dilute with water and alcohol before bottling – it really is that simple!

Liquid flavour compounds remove the need to manage multiple ingredients, deal with different suppliers and co-ordinate varying lead times, MOQs and expiry dates - all of which can be time consuming. They also allow complete control over the flavour of the finished product, ensuring brand and flavour consistency every time. Furthermore, because our compounds are all completely bespoke, they can be easily adjusted, where required, guaranteeing our customers are always happy with the finished product. The many benefits offered by compounds make them an increasingly popular choice for spirit brands, manufacturers and bottlers alike.   

What trends has Simpsons Beverages noticed among its various product ranges in the past few years?

Continued flavour innovation has been instrumental in fuelling growth across the flavoured spirit and premixed cocktail categories, as today’s consumers are increasingly on the look out for new tastes and experiences.

  • Flavoured Gin

Flavoured gin remains hugely popular; it now accounts for 40 per cent of the total gin market – in both volume and value – totalling £500m sales annually*.

Gin’s versatility means it can be mixed with almost any flavour, making it appealing to all ages and demographics and tapping into all sorts of seasonal, cultural or cuisine-led trends. The future looks bright for flavoured gin, with market forecasts predicting a further 4.5 per cent growth for gin, and flavoured gin, over the next three years*.

*Wine & Spirit Trade Association, 2021

  • Flavoured Rum

Following the premiumisation of traditional rums, flavoured and spiced versions are now attracting all demographics of drinkers. Rum was even named the UK’s ‘drink of lockdown’ in 2020 after enjoying the strongest growth of any spirit (sales grew by 38 per cent*, contributing to the rum market now being worth more than £1bn**). This growth was largely fuelled by increasing interest in flavoured rum and spiced rum, outselling even white rum - demonstrating drinkers’ enthusiasm for experimenting with new rum flavours. The spectrum of flavour within rum itself – earthy notes in darks rums or hints of smooth caramel and vanilla in golden rums – make it perfect to be paired with a wide range of fruits and botanicals.

*Wine & Spirit Trade Association, 2020

**Statista, 2022

  • Flavoured Vodka

Flavour diversification is also helping to re-establish vodka’s place in the spirit market, with flavoured vodka holding a 15 per cent market share in 2020*. Flavoured varieties are not only rewriting the narrative of vodka being a bland spirit; they also suit the growing trend of ‘less is more’ drinking. Consumers increasingly prefer to enjoy fewer pours of higher-quality options - savouring the taste while avoiding the health implications.

*IWSR, 2020

  • Premixed cocktails

While there’s a growing shift towards luxury drinks and brands, convenience and affordability remain key for many consumers, which is continuing to fuel demand for premixed cocktails. These surged in popularity at the height of the pandemic thanks to their portability and pricing - sales grew by 132 per cent in 2020/21 and 51 per cent of drinkers say they’ll continue to enjoy them through 2022*. Gin, rum, vodka and Tequila-based combinations are leading the way, both in classic cocktails and creative new mixes.

Premixed cocktails suit all consumer types, from festival-goers and those on the move, to the health-conscious wanting to keep a closer eye on their consumption. They’re also increasingly popular for bars, clubs and restaurants too. Venues can expand their menu without needing to stock multiple ingredients and spend time on preparation.  Offering new or unusual flavours and combinations, creating little to no waste for consumers, and allowing drinkers to know exactly how much they’ve had – premixed cocktails tick all the boxes.

*Bacardi, 2022

The flavoured spirits category is obviously booming – how is Simpsons Beverages supporting spirits producers to explore flavour innovations for their products?

At Simpsons we develop bespoke flavours for spirit brands and distilleries tailored to their specific requirements. Our recently opened New Product Development (NPD) laboratory demonstrates our commitment to being a truly innovative and forward-thinking company and provides a unique experience for our customers. 

Whatever the project, our experienced team of mixologists and flavourists are here to assist every step of the way from concept to finished product. Furnished with up-to-the-minute data on emerging flavour trends, we help brands to gain first mover advantage in the marketplace. What’s more, our in-depth knowledge of the drinks industry means that we are on hand to offer guidance through the complexities of industry compliance and regulations.  

Our sampling service guarantees 100 per cent customer confidence and satisfaction. Customer feedback enables us to amend recipes where required until they are completely happy with the final formulation. What’s more, ready-to-taste samples of concept drinks also help them to engage with new buyers and prospects.

Is there any NPD going on at Simpsons Beverages, or any other recent developments in the business, that you can share with us?

Whilst limited -dition flavoured spirits used to be manufactured for a few key occasions throughout the year, we are increasingly developing bespoke flavours for almost every occasion and celebration within the calendar - from spiced pumpkin for Halloweeen, to Summer Cup for the Jubliee. We really can make almost any flavour imaginable.

International flavours remain a valuable source of inspiration. Asian flavours have proved popular of late with floral notes of cherry blossom, inspired by the national tree of Japan, blended with flavours such as lychee and ginger. Herbs such as lemongrass can also be used to add a complementary kick. More unusual East Asian citruses, such as yuzu, can put a new twist on citrus classics too. As consumers are becoming more adventurous and willing to try new, exotic and daring flavours, we have increasingly been working on strong flavours such as smoked mixes, spice or chilli.  

What trends should alcoholic beverage producers be watching in the flavour innovation market?

Over the next 12 months we expect to see an increase in tart and sour flavour combinations, perhaps featuring non-mainstream fruits such as bergamot and yuzu, together with the more traditional citrus fruits such as lime and blood orange. Spirit flavours with a smoky twist, such as smoked apple and cinnamon Old Fashioned, are something which we expect to see more of across the industry. Salt is also increasingly being incorporated in a number of spirit flavours such as salted popcorn, salted pink grapefruit and apple with salted caramel. In addition, consumer appetite for spicy flavours looks set to continue with Mexican-inspired flavours such as jalapeno margaritas leading the way.  Finally, whilst floral botanicals are no stranger to the spirits shelf, we are seeing lesser-known flavours such as hibiscus, lavender, earl grey and flowering currant growing in dominance.

13 June 2022