Gold Fever

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It is said that in a gold rush the only ones making any money are those selling shovels.

Levi Strauss took this advice to heart when he migrated to the West Coast of the United States in 1853 at the height of the California Gold Rush. Rather than pan for gold he established a dry goods business to service the rapidly growing population.

A few years later one of his customers, Jacob Davis, explained he had invented a technique to make long-lasting denim pants using copper rivets – ideal for use by hard-working gold prospectors.

Davis needed a business partner and Strauss liked the idea, so together they patented the concept and started selling the world’s first blue jeans.

There is something akin to a gold rush happening in the gin sector right now.

This summer Instagram Stories will again be flooded with sunlit ice-packed balloon glasses of the juniper spirit in all its many modern guises.

Bars, delis, and supermarkets offer a dizzying array of brands. Gone are the days when Gordon’s was the ‘G’ in G&T.

Gin now comes fruit-infused and barrel-aged. It comes with locally sourced botanicals and increasingly elaborate backstories of supposed provenance.

And while the gin market is still booming – with 55 million bottles of gin worth £1.5 billion sold in the UK last year – it has become increasingly crowded.

The number of British gin distilleries has increased by 127% over the last five years to 315. There are now more gin distilleries in London than there were in all of Europe just a decade ago.

Many craft gin brands are consequently struggling to capture market share.

Amid the gin explosion Fever-Tree has become an extraordinary success story.

Founded by Tim Warrillow and Charles Rolls in 2005, Fever-Tree craftily aligned itself with premium gin to become the default mixer, no matter which brand you choose. It now sells more tonic than Schweppes.

“We created a whole range of tonics to match the styles of gin,” Warrillow explains. “There is an even more exciting opportunity to do the same for brown spirits.”

In other words: they are ready with the shovels.

A version of this article was published as part of a weekly column on marketing, design, trends and strategy in the Lancaster Guardian, Blackpool Gazette and Lancashire Post.

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