BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CN) — Rising demand for gin in Argentina is fueling a wave of new domestic brands and distilleries, cultivating a nascent and thriving market in a country famed for its malbec wines.
Hundreds of domestic brands have been created since the beginning of the pandemic, with gin consumption rising by 81% between 2020 and 2021, according to the global drinks market analyst IWSR.
“I believed that at the beginning of 2022, the growth was about to reach a ceiling and that many brands would cease operations, but on the contrary, gin’s popularity has continued to grow,” said Rudy Marozzi, who tracks gin production across Argentina. “In December of 2021 there were 250 brands and we’re ending 2022 with 421 gin brands,” said the self-styled ginfluencer. “And there are several new gins that have not yet been launched.”
Under the tight restrictions of a national lockdown in 2020, Argentines opened up their cabinets and began exploring new tastes, ditching old brands and picking up new ones. As the quarantine loosened in mid-2020, the shutters reopened on bars and clubs, where more gin was being poured into cocktail glasses.
Along with the rise in local labels, international brands are doubling down on the Argentina market and launching new varieties. However, the strong growth of domestic distilleries means that around 72% of the national gin market is made up of local brands — with the other 28% consisting of imported brands.
While the lockdown accelerated shifts in alcoholic preferences, the rise of gin in Argentina predates the pandemic. From 2017 to 2020, the country’s taste for the juniper-infused spirit increased by 174%, according to IWSR, winning over vodka and whiskey drinkers — gin’s closest competitors in spirits.
“Globally, the consumption of spirits, and especially craft spirits, has been growing for years,” said Juan Chereminiano, one of the founders of Bosque Gin, an award-winning Argentine artisanal gin.
“I think that consumers are more open to discovering new brands, like what has happened with beer. They are looking for brands that appeal to them in terms of design, concept, purpose and the company's mission,” Chereminiano said.
"Many gin brands have grown because they have found their niche," he added, "and mass gin is not enough to satisfy new generations and segments that learn about the drink and want something more.”
Although Marozzi believes that the growth of the gin market will decelerate in 2023, many brands have already established themselves, with multiple brands already gaining international recognition, earning awards and exporting their labels to the U.S., Europe and the rest of Latin America.
One of these brands is Bosque. “We started in July 2019, selling about 1,000-1,500 bottles only in on-premise chains,” Chereminiano said. “We were caught by the pandemic, which forced us to use regional distributors and e-commerce. We surprisingly grew to 4,000 bottles per month in just a few months and by the end of 2020 we were already at 7,000 bottles.”
In 2021, Bosque signed a distribution alliance for Argentina with the global drinks conglomerate AB InBev and is now producing 50,000-60,000 bottles per month, exporting to North America, Europe and Japan as well as neighboring countries in Latin America. In 2023, its focus is on foreign markets. “We expect that in five years, our share of domestic sales in Argentina will only be 10-15% of our operation,” said Chereminiano.
Argentina’s potency remains in its wine production. It is the sixth largest wine producer in the world and shipped $817 million worth of wine in 2021, including its famed malbec and cabernet varieties.
The rugged slopes of the Andes are home to the vineyards of Mendoza, the mountainous province whose wine industry stretches back a century and is now home to 90% of Argentina’s wine exports.
These same slopes are feeding multiple gin brands with glacial water while the raw material of gin, juniper, grows all over the wild Patagonia region in the south.
The geography of Argentina has helped cultivate a world-class wine reputation. It is now cultivating a new market, with the aim of gaining a solid global grounding. There is gin production in almost every province in the country, using pure spring water from the mountains, junipers from Patagonia and oranges from the north. Some brands infuse their gin with the native yerba plant, the key ingredient in the country’s most popular tea, mate.
“Having a country as big as ours, many of these gins are very popular in their own provinces,” said Marozzi. “And I have no doubt that they will continue to gain recognition both domestically and internationally.”
The next few years will demonstrate whether Argentine gin can go from being a fashionable drink to having a solid global reputation. “Little by little, Argentine gin is making its place in the world,” said Chereminiano. “I think it has a long way to go because prestige is built over time, doing things well and sustainably. But surely in 3-5 years, we will see a mature Argentine market, with experience and hopefully with international ground gained.”
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