Last year, the spirits industry was presented with some unique challenges. Speaking to National Liquor News, Sean Baxter, Co-Founder and Brand Director at Never Never, explained how the South Australian gin distillery maintained growth.

“The Australian craft spirits sector is premium by nature given the costs associated with production, labour and excise, so when the category takes a hit through economic downturn it’s often the premium segment that feels the pinch first.

“Our Cause A Stir brand message has continued to build momentum through multiple activations. Our Valentine’s Day Breakup Box was a surprise for us earlier in the year becoming one of the most widely shared pieces of content we have created, and our April Fool’s Day Oyster Shell Blimp caused a few waves among our Sydney-based gin enthusiasts.”

As a category leader, Baxter says innovation and collaboration was a huge growth driver.

“We continued to innovate with two new collaborative releases that have been exceptionally well received. Our Pink Pepper Gin and Coffee & Cacao Gin celebrate our relationship with the global industry and deepen our understanding of our flavour capabilities.”

What to expect from Never Never

Anticipating that consumer spending will remain soft in 2024, Baxter spoke about overcoming the challenge of growing competition.

“It’s up to us to continue to take market share off the big international brands through superior spirit and creative marketing strategies. This is challenging in a market that’s seeking value. It means you need to work even harder to keep winning lifelong brand fans and encourage new customers to convert to premium local gin.

“We can do this if we stick to the strategies that we have built over the last few years and continue to walk the walk when it comes to our brand messaging. The more we cause a stir with our flavour and brand, the more cut through we will have.”

While the timeless Triple Juniper Gin continues to drive the business, category disrupting innovations remain a priority.

“We have a busy schedule when it comes to product development, but we’ve always been connected to the way future trends begin to shape the market. Expect to see these trends filter through into the way we collaborate and innovate in a market that demands creativity and excellence,” adds Baxter.

“We have been able to maintain this level of excellence since we started production in 2017 and continue to do so with everything we make.”

A call for change

Tax always has and always will be one of the biggest challenges for any brand attempting to grow in Australia, according to Baxter. With the most recent tax hike in 2023 putting spirits excise at over $100 per litre of alcohol, Australian producers are feeling the pressure.

“To make serious inroads as a small business in the spirit industry in Australia requires an immense amount of investment and creativity to have the cut through required to make an impact in the market.

“If excise tax persists as the obtuse and outdated beast it currently is, it will continue to harm the industry over the coming years,” Baxter concluded.

This article originally appeared in the 2024 Leaders Forum issue of National Liquor News.

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