As one of the media partners of the London Spirits Competition, London Wine Competition and London Beer Competition, it was a pleasure to be invited to meet the organisers and the judges.
On Wednesday 22 March, the day the spirits were being judged, I interviewed Sid Patel – the who runs Beverage Trade Network (the company that organises the competitions).
I also met with a number of the judges who provided fascinating insights into the benefits for the drinks producers who submit their drinks brands from the UK and across the globe.
All the judges are leisure and hospitality industry experts whose responsibilities include buying; everyone I spoke to found the annual competition extremely useful because they are introduced to new brands and producers that they are not aware of, but it was explained that those new products do get chosen to be stocked by some of the country’s leading bars, restaurants and hotels.
The challenge for the new producers, or those companies who don’t have the marketing support of the international brands, is how to reach new potential buyers.
It was made clear by several judges that the old school approach of taking in samples to present to prospective buyers is no longer welcome.
Linked In was useful for a number of those judging the spirits who are happy to be contacted online and then follow up if the product is something they want to sample.
Commenting on market trends for spirits, the judges we spoke to have seen a resurgence in the interest of cocktails, especially outside London. Consumers outside the capital are increasingly confident it asking for cocktails and this is helping to drive the market. Cocktails being made at the table is also a trend that some of the judges acknowledged.
One of the other clear benefits for companies who enter the competitions is that they get very useful feedback from the judges, whether this is on the product, its price point or packaging.
A company may not win in a given category, but they do take away valuable insights from people who would be prospective buyers for their brand.
When we sat down with Sid Patel we were keen to find out of this year’s competitions had gone, what was new and the plans for 2024.
Sid explained that four thousand products had been sampled this year, an increase on the number of submissions for 2022, across all the competitions’ categories: wine, beer and spirits.
The quality of this year’s entrants was high, especially from wine producers, with a strong showing from tequila and whisky producers – both in terms of quality and the number of submissions.
Sid also explained that they had introduced new elements for the 2023 competitions.
An additional round of tasting for those products that earned at least 90 points, will result in various category winners being announced.
Cocktail recipes that have been supplied by various entrants will also be published online.
Beverage Trade Network is in the process of organising two new trade shows planned for later this year (UK Trade Tasting and International Bulk Wine & Spirits Show).
All the new elements will be carried forward for the 2024 competitions, along with the two new UK trade shows, which will take place in central London (follow the links below for more information).
This year’s results will be out in early April, which we will be featuring here on Hand Crafted Drinks Magazine’s website.
Details of the 2024 competitions will also be announced in due course.
For information about UK Trade Tasting visit their website
For information about International Bulk Wine & Spirits Show visit their website
All photography copyright 2023 Simon Turton | All rights reserved