What does the future of gifting look like in the spirits industry?


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The festive season is a key trading period for spirits. And branded gift packs in particular are proving to be a major area of innovation, thanks to technological advances and heightened creativity, writes Leyton Hardwick of design agency Drink Works in this guest article.

The spirits category is booming. Sales in supermarkets are up 3.9% to more than £4.7bn whilst the top 100 fastest growing spirits brands grew collectively by 11%​ in just the past year alone.

The category is growing thanks to novel product launches, reminiscent of the ‘Ginnovation’ boom we saw a few years ago. Over the course of the past twelve months, we have seen wine brand Echo Falls enter the gin and vodka category with huge success and it is no surprise that Amazon entered the spirits market​ with a new, much debated gin brand.

The contents of these spirits products are becoming increasingly experimental – and this level of innovation is matched by the bottles and packs they come in. Specifically, the branded gifting experience is proving to be a major area of innovation in the category.

This is a trend that’s only set to continue, and combined with similar growth in the on-the-go and variety pack categories. It opens up creative opportunities for brands, especially as we go into the season for gifting – and a key trading period – the trend for products being designed with a consumer-centric approach is opening up an area of innovation for spirits packaging that is starting to align with what’s happening with the product itself.

How to package the brand’s story

In order to thrive in this space, gift experiences must be rooted in telling the brand’s unique story. With recent research revealing​ that consumers are increasingly making purchases based on how much they relate to a brand’s purpose and story, it’s clear that this approach will heighten their enjoyment of the product.

Different components of a product’s packaging can be used to tell each brand’s unique story, and champion their USP in the market.

Our work with Aberfeldy, a single malt Scotch whisky, is a case in point. We were tasked with developing a limited-edition targeting the luxury sector.


The product, The Gold of Pitilie, is a hand-crafted $5,000 a bottle rarity distilled in the Highlands.

After spending a week with the distillers, working closely with them to understand the process and the local area, we decided to convey the unique, premium nature of the product by crafting the bottle and stopper with 3D printing and lost wax casting and nuggets of gold panned by hand from rivers in Scotland.

This is just one example of how you can create a gifting experience to elevate a product above its competitors, by telling a unique, ownable story through the pack.

Gifting for every generation

Naturally, spirits brands need to tailor their gift offerings depending on their target audiences. More traditional gifting may work better for older generations, however, younger drinkers will likely favour gift packs that offer ‘sustainable’ or digital capabilities to enhance the product experience.

In our recent work for brands that target younger drinkers, we’re also seeing an increasing desire for gifts that offer a special experience. With a recent study revealing that 72% of millennials​ would rather pay for experiences than material items, it’s a no-brainer for spirits brands to think about how they can create gifts that cater for this demand.

For instance, what if within the gifting pack, consumers could receive a code which would provide them with access to a bespoke cocktail mixology session? Or what if the bottle cap of a seasonal gin could provide complimentary tickets to a festival or concert?

The gift that keeps on giving

Technological advancements are opening up new creative opportunities for spirits brands to tap into consumer desires. With this in mind it is clear that the innovations within the gifting category won’t be slowing down any time soon.

Leyton Hardwick

And with gift packs starting be seen beyond seasonal occasions and the expected travel retail arena, it’s clear that this is a category set to dominate the alcohol aisles in the years to come.

About the author: ​Leyton Hardwick is creative director and owner at Drink Works, a strategic innovation and design agency in London.

With nearly 30 years’ experience of working in innovation and brand design, he has worked with some of the industry’s leading companies including Coca-Cola, AB InBev, Diageo and Danone. He is passionate about delivering genuinely innovative solutions for every client, on every project.

Leyton advises clients on brand strategy, strategic innovation, structural and new packaging design.

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