A new player has entered the Australian gin scene, and it’s one that is seeking to break open a significant opportunity in the local off-premise drinks market.
East Pole is mid strength gin that has recently launched two SKUs – Classic Dry and Pink Grapefruit – both at 22.3 per cent ABV. Created in Melbourne using Australian botanicals, it aims to capture the profile of a full strength gin, just with slightly less alcohol.
Behind the creation of the new mid strength distillery is Founder and CEO, Dylan Alexander. A long time lover of the hospitality and drinks industry, East Pole is the latest innovative project of Alexander’s, after also creating We Are Tailored Beverage Company. Described as a ‘drinks innovation hub’, We Are Tailored is known for such products as the Melbourne Martini range of ready to drink craft cocktails in jars, Rosé Rosé wine in a can.
“I’ve always had a passion for hospitality… I love being able to bring new products and different things to the market that fill gaps in consumer occasions,” Alexander said.
When it comes to East Pole, that gap is one around moderation, where the no and low alcohol (NOLO) market has currently done really well. Alexander believes this is also where the mid strength sector can shine – giving consumers even more choice outside of the two far ends of the scale that are full and low strength alcoholic options. One specific opportunity he sees for the mid strength market is with consumers who moderate their alcohol intake by switching between NOLO and full strength products during social events.
“We’re really trying to create a new category. We believe there is a future way of drinking in that mid strength space,” Alexander said.
“There’s growth behind that moderation drinker, which I think all of us really like the idea of, we just don’t want to compromise on the benefits of the consumption – the taste, the experience, when we can do it, and how we can do it.
“We’re not out to replace the highest strength occasion. We’re there for that moderation occasion, where people can take a bottle of East Pole if they’re driving, for example. You can have four standard G&Ts rather than two.
“It’s mid strength, it’s full flavor, and it’s exactly the same experience [as full strength options], but you can obviously consume more for longer whilst still having the same amount of alcohol.”
While Alexander says there is some work being done on the mid strength scale in wine and beer, it’s not as visible in all categories as it should be. This is why East Pole sits as a separate entity to Alexander’s other work, with a dedicated distillery and standalone brand, to really help the mid strength sector of the market shine and showcase what it can offer to consumers.
“This mid strength category, not just what we’re doing with gin but the lower strength beers and wine too – it’s really here to stay. It’s more of a way of life rather than just a flash in the pan trend,” Alexander said.
“We’re hanging our hat on the fact that there’s a category in this mid strength space that delivers all of the joy that full strength typically has.”
There are a lot of challenges that Alexander predicts can get in the way of the rise of the mid strength category, and they’re ones he believes the NOLO sector has already overcome. One key challenge is with production – to create lower alcohol products that still replicate the same mouthfeel, texture and flavour of their full strength counterparts, and not taste like watered down versions. East Pole, for example, was in production for 18 months to get this right.
But another key challenge will be visibility in the retail space, to make sure customers know there are mid strength options available, and they don’t accidentally buy the wrong thing.
Alexander said: “From a retailer perspective, it’s going to be really important (and this comes not from me, but from our market research), for the category to be there and not lumped in with [other strengths]. Someone could come home and realise, ‘hey, this isn’t non-alc, this is 20 per cent,’ or on the other end, ‘this is half my normal strength.’
“It’s really about driving home that occasion, the opportunity of mid stength and occasions that creates.”