By Arabella Mileham, The Drink Business

Fusion drinks are set to soar as wine brands increasingly tap into their growing appeal amongst millennials, and start to target older consumers.

Last week, three UK suppliers unveiled new wine-based low-alcohol fruit drinks at the London Wine Fair, noting huge potential in the fledgling category.

Copestick Murray showcased a cocktail-style extension to its ‘i heart ‘ range with “i heart Hugo’, a drink developed for a supermarket client in the Netherlands which it is hoping to launch in to the UK over the next six months. The drink is looking to tap into the success of ‘Mionetto il Hugo’ – a pre-mixed prosecco cocktail with a soda, elderflower and mint infusion, that has become popular on the continent.

Robin Copestick said the drink, which is not unlike a spritz and should be drunk over ice in a hiball glass, had proved to be “a phenomenon” across Europe. “It is a very summery, refreshing style of drink, and in the last few years it has become one of the most popular drinks in German and the Netherlands” he told db.

However he admitted that despite the call for innovative drinks, “you can’t just put it on a shelf and expect people to know how to drink it”, and said the company was working to seed the drink with the on-trade.

“It ticks a lot of boxes for people we are trying to reach, it is lower in alcohol and refreshing,” he told db. “I am convinced it can be a massive hit with the UK consumers but it is important to get the launch right.”

Off-Piste Wines also unveiled its upmarket fusion brand, Makers & Co which comes in lime, mint & hibiscus, cranberry, rose petal & hibiscus, pink grapefruit & ginger, and melon, cucumber & juniper, while Kingsland Drinks has also boosted it focus on fusion and carbonated lines following the opening of its new carbonated bottling line.

Last week the Irlam-based company unveiled its new ‘Mr Gladstone’s Curious Emporium’ brand, a fusion drink targeting 25-35 year old consumers through ‘nostalgic’ packaging and flavours. It comes in rhubarb & custard and pear drops.

Marketing director Neil Anderson said there was an opportunity to create new styles and less “straight-forward” offerings that would cater for older as well as younger consumers. He told db it was an area with “incredible appeal”, having grown from “nothing” into a £100m category – a rise of 290% in the last year alone (Kantar Worldpanel, 52 w/e data to 31st January 2016).

“There is an opportunity to invigorate and excite in this category more than there is currently,” he said.

Chris Wisson, senior drinks analyst for Mintel said the rapid success and continued performance of best-selling fusion brand Echo Falls Fruit Fusions and slight slowdown in the growth of flavoured ciders shows that there is scope for fruit wines to grow further in the coming years, as evidenced by the new entrants on the market.

“They are fulfilling the wish of many wine drinkers – and particularly younger ones – for demystifying wine and making it more approachable with clearer flavour cues. It also helps that these wines are often relatively sweet, which is something which under-35s are particularly receptive to,” he said.

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