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A year of social trends: March is “Ginnaissance”

Appropriately enough in 2017’s Brexit Britain, the popularity of the iconically British Gin and Tonic owes it’s origins to the imposition of tariffs on foreign spirits (back in the 17th century)… These days, however, there are other factors driving the popularity of the spirit which we’re exploring in March, as part of our year identifying and living social trends.

Commercially, 2016 was a record year for British gin exports with overseas sales reaching half a billion pounds, up 12% (or £53 million) from 2015, and up 32% in the past 5 years. According to The Wine and Spirit Trade Association, 44 new distilleries opened last year and 100 new licenses have been issued in the last two years.

Digital hype has been growing at an even faster rate in the past two years. Gin or #gin has been mentioned 23k times on news, blogs or forums last year. That’s +45% compared to 2015.

Looking at other spirits, “gin” was outperforming volumes of discussion in 2016. With 650k mentions on Twitter, the social buzz around gin is 6 times the size of tequila, 4 times the size of whisky and 0.7 times the size of vodka mentions in 2016.

We also estimate #gin was used 102k times on Instagram last year. Two clear topics/ themes dominated: Gin cocktails & branded bottles.

By number of followers whisky remains the number one spirit on Twitter, but gin brand accounts have become increasingly popular. Established distilleries like the SW Distillery, Portobello Gin or Caorunn Gin have enjoyed follower growth rates between 2-20% over the past twelve months (Whiskey brands like Jack Daniels UK, Highlandpark or Glenfiddich saw a more stable 7-8%).

On YouTube the spirits leaderboard is even more distinct. Bombay Sapphire’s and Gordon’s Gin’s channels are among the top 5 UK spirits channels (next to Bacardi, Jägermeister & Grey Goose as of  Feb 2017).  Brand channelsTotal uploaded video viewsBombay Sapphire9.7MBacardi UK3.7MJägermeister UK2.1MGordon’s Gin1.4MGrey Goose UK1.3M

With 30% of all bottles sold in 2016 in the 12 weeks prior to New Year, the festive season is crucial for success in the spirits industry. In the same period, online retailer “Not on the Highstreet” announced that searches for “gin products” were up 31% compared to 2015. This doesn’t translate as markedly in social. Volumes between October and December have increased by only 2% compared to July – September. In fact we saw the spring period (Apr-Jun), driven by gin product promotions and World Gin Day to be most busy in terms of social volumes.

However, the love of gin spilled over on search data: the level of interest for “gin gifts” and “gin cocktails” has quadrupled in the past 5 years. Search volumes start increasing end of October and peak mid/ end December (see graph below). Interesting behavioural point is how “gin cocktails” are following “gin gift” search trends.


Are we seeing a “Ginsanity” revival from back in the 17th century?

The combination of search and social surges demonstrates people have both intent and expression: they’re looking to acquire information as well as showcase their own identity. That’s a potent (forgive the pun) combination we’ll be exploring further across March.

Fun Fact: The gin in our tonic was first used to flavour the taste of medicinal quinine (a cure for malaria) – known today as tonic water.

More history?

The Gin craze in England started in the 17th century when King William of Orange stopped French brandy imports by dropping taxation and licensing on UK distillation, whilst raising taxes on imported foreign spirits. In 1690 the monopoly of the London Guild of Distillers was dissolved and Gin consumption saw a stiff increase: Gingerbread vendors gave Londoners a new reason to get sipping during the famous Frost Fairs on the frozen River Thames by selling cups of gin.

In the following years “Ginsanity” became a bottomless habit. The 1736 Gin Act aimed to regulate this relentless gin drinking. One of the most famous illustrations of the evils of gin-drinking in this period is Hogarth’s “Gin Lane”.


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