Absinthe Devil Survey: 2010
Absinthe was re-legalised in the USA just over 3 years ago. Since then, about 70 absinthes have been approved for US launch, of which about 45 have now been launched in the USA (May 2010).
With so much choice, Absinthe Devil is often asked for our views on what are the best absinthes, and recommendations are published on our main site. We wanted, however, to get feedback from American consumers buying absinthe, and have conducted a survey of over 170 consumers. The results are now in, and the findings are very interesting:
1. The most popular absinthes are not necessarily the ones in broadest distribution.
Currently retailers and bars are more likely to stock the first absinthes to arrive in the USA: our own distribution survey has shown that Lucid, Kübler, Le Tourment Vert, Pernod and St. George are in widest distribution across the USA. This may mean that they tend to be the biggest sellers. However, when we explored which absinthes consumers had bought and which they were most likely to buy again, we found a very different picture (to explain: if everyone who has bought an absinthe intends to re-purchase it, that absinthe would achieve a “have bought, will buy again score” of 100%). Thus:
The top 3 absinthes in this survey, which all achieved “have bought, will buy again” scores of over 90%, were:
· Meadow of Love, American absinthe, produced by Delaware Phoenix.
· Nouvelle Orleans, French absinthe, produced by Jade Liqueurs.
· La Clandestine, Swiss blanche, produced by Artemisia Distillerie.
The rest of the Top 10 were Walton Waters, Pacifique, Duplais Verte, Vieux Carré, Vieux Pontarlier, Marteau and Leopold.
The most readily available absinthes (Lucid, Kübler, Le Tourment Vert, Pernod and St. George) are all outside this top 10; most of these are re-purchased by fewer than 60% of those who have bought them once (one of these is re-purchased by around only 30% of its buyers).
2. Retailers/bars are missing the opportunity to stock absinthe aficionados’ preferred brands.
By stocking just a few absinthes which are less likely to be re-purchased, many retailers/bars are missing the opportunity to satisfy a broader market that seems to hold more growth potential. We don’t suggest that retailers/bars change all the absinthes they stock; merely that they add 2/3 of the Top 10 absinthes listed above, thus capitalising on the desires of the absinthe aficionado. Any retailer/bar who only stocks 1/2 absinthes and says “I don’t stock more because there is not much demand here for absinthe,” should consider whether the lines he/she stocks are in fact reducing demand!
3. The more experience of different absinthes a consumer has, the more his/her tastes change.
Consumers who have only bought 1, 2, or 3 absinthes tended to cite Lucid and/or Pernod as their favorite absinthes (not surprising since they may not have tried any other absinthe).
Consumers who have bought 4 or more absinthes have very different preferences. They list Pacifique, Walton Waters, La Clandestine, Nouvelle-Orléans, Marteau, Vieux Pontarlier and Meadow of Love as their favorites. Lucid and Pernod tend to drop out of the picture as consumers gain broader experiences.
Retailers can again benefit from this by adding 2/3 of the absinthes preferred by these heavier users to their current “big brand” portfolio.
4. The Absinthe category is, in fact, several different categories which need separate attention.
Absinthe goes well beyond the range of 1 or 2 French vertes stocked in some stores and bars: absinthe can be French, Swiss or indeed American; Absinthe can be “verte” or “blanche.” While some people just want “absinthe,” the broader sales opportunities will come from meeting the needs of consumers for several different styles. Artisanale American vertes can be sold alongside the established vertes for around the same price (or maybe a few dollars more); hand-crafted Swiss blanches can be sold as a $5 or $10 upgrade per 75 cl bottle (a very small premium for someone paying $60 already).
5. The Top Five absinthes for each category (based on “have bought, will buy again”) are as follows:
French: Nouvelle-Orléans, Vieux Pontarlier, La Charlotte, Pernod and Lucid.
Swiss: La Clandestine, Duplais Verte, Duplais Blanche, Mansinthe and Kübler.
American: Meadow of Love, Walton Waters, Pacifique, Vieux Carré and Marteau.
Verte: Meadow of Love, Nouvelle-Orléans, Walton Waters, Pacifique and Duplais Verte.
Blanche: La Clandestine, Edward 111, Duplais Blanche, Kübler and La Valote.
6. Absinthe drinkers are high spenders who also buy other drinks from retailers and bars.
In this survey, absinthe drinkers said that they each buy more than 10 bottles of absinthe each year (two said that they buy more than 2 bottles every week!). Interestingly, the average adult per capita consumption in the USA is around 10 bottles of spirits a year. Since the 10+ bottles a year absinthe purchaser ALSO purchases other spirits, the “average absinthe drinker" (who is already buying very ultra-premium spirits if he buys absinthe at $60+ a bottle) should clearly be an attractive target for those selling liquor, whether they be retailers or bars.
7. Absinthe drinkers mainly drink it at home: an opportunity for bars to attract big spenders?
95% of absinthe drinkers drink it at home; only 32% ever drink it in bars. Considering the relatively high price per bottle ($60 +), this may be preventing many people trying absinthe for the first time. Bars will also need to offer more than 1/2 absinthe brands if they are to attract the heavy spending absinthe consumer who clearly wants more than just the big brands.
Luckily bars don’t need to worry about having to make very complicated absinthe cocktails or about consumers shooting or flaming absinthes. More than 90% of absinthe drinkers are drinking the traditional water, ice/water way.
Boston, May 2010. Copyright: AbsintheDevil.com. For further information, contact Brian Fernald.
Appendix: Notes on how the survey was conducted:
The 2010 Absinthe Devil Survey ran from late March to early May 2010, and was completed by 174 respondents using an online self-completion survey. Respondents came mainly from a direct mail blast to Absinthe Devil’s database and to visitors to the Absinthe Devil blog. A sub-sample of consumers from the Wormwood Society, America’s Premier Absinthe Association provided additional “heavy user” respondents, complementing the main sample.
The questionnaire was based on the 2009 survey conducted by the Absinthe Review Network who kindly agreed to let us use a similar format.