When you think of new products coming out of some of the larger brands like Smirnoff, you automatically assume the idea behind them have originated in the US.
And when the brand recently released their Infusion range in the States, (backed by videos that used the dulcet tones of Ted Danson saying that it ‘tastes delicious”), well, you couldn’t imagine a more American invention.
Turn the clock forward four months to the Australian release of Smirnoff Infusions range, and it soon becomes evident that things are not quite as red, white & blue as they first seem.
“It was actually an innovation that started in Australia about two years ago,” said Linda Wellington, Marketing Manager Gin and Light Sprits, Diageo Australia. “We were the first ones to develope the concept but also we’re later to market.
As well as the time difference (the UK released Infusion in April, while the US released in May), there was also a significant difference in the flavours.
The UK released two flavours: orange, grapefruit and bitters; and raspberry, rhubarb and vanilla. The US released three flavours: cucumber and lime, watermelon and mint, and strawberry and rose and finally Australia has also released two flavours; Cucumber Lime & Mint and Passionfruit & Lime.
Although multiple markets took on the Australian concept, Wellington points out that the way they interpreted it varied greatly depending on the aspects of a holistic lifestyle that most resonated with their consumers.
“And each market had different messaging,” she continued, “speaking to the US team, zero sugar is massive for them. Their product is called Zero Sugar Infusions because in America there’s a single-minded focus on sugar.”
In the UK, the focus seemed to be more on the content of real fruit. With Sarah Shimmons, Smirnoff marketing manager for Europe, commenting that “Smirnoff Infusions taps into the growing demand from consumers for great-tasting drinks with a real depth of flavour. The process sees real fruits infused and distilled individually for the perfect amount of time to allow their natural characteristics to be extracted.”
Wellington points out that in Australia, the focus was on the natural botanicals element where everything’s completely natural, coupled with calorie messaging.
“Particularly in the holistic space, Australia is almost, if not more advanced and certainly in parallel with the U.S. and Europe. It’s the same trends coming to life in every market, but Australians are leaning really heavily into this holistic space.
“We are continually scanning the environment for all of the core macro trends and the trend of holistic living in Australia has been growing and growing over the past few years. So it’s certainly something we have been conscious of as, as our premise, partners are and major retailers.
It could easily be said that Australia has now reached a point where holistic living is almost mainstream. It’s just the way that people live. So we’re conscious that people are looking to be able to make more balanced choices when they’re looking at sort of adult beverages.
“We were looking at the way that that can come to life for us in a spirit portfolio,” Wellington continued, “and a brand like Smirnoff in a spirits category, like vodka, lends itself nicely to allowing people to make more balanced choices.”
If you’ve ever wondered how a product like Smirnoff Infusion is developed, Wellington explains that it starts with consultation. “We really started in that space [holistic living] and then spoke to loads of consumers, we spoke to our retail partners and identified which aspects were most resonant with Australian consumers. And it’s all-around natural botanicals.
“All of the infusion products are infused with completely natural flavours. There’s nothing artificial in there. And there’s also a calorie messaging that comes through as well when it’s mixed with soda, it’s 40 calories per serve, which makes it a lot… as sort of a lighter alternative for daytime drinking because we know Australians are socialising much more in the day.
“People are still enjoying socialising with friends, but the way that they’re socialising is changing and that it’s less about bigger, late-night occasions and more about day time, so that was one of the core macro trends that helped drive the creation of the product.
The choice of the two flavours for the Australian market also came through consumer consultation. A multitude of taste variation tests were done, with Cucumber and Passionfruit respectfully, triumphing as the most popular with consumers.
The cucumber was chosen due to it’s delightfully clean and crisp flavour that encompasses a light and refreshing taste that you want on a summer day. And the passionfruit won through due to its popularity as a flavour in Australia.
Wellington explains that communicating the difference that the Infusions range presents compared to a flavoured Vodka or a typical RTD has been the brand’s main challenge.
“It’ definitely not a flavoured vodka. It has a much nicer flavour profile. It’s only 20% ABV, designed to be mixed with soda. It is something that we’ve been conscious of, and we’ve even certainly now in the store environment, and in the on-premise communications, we’ve worked hard to make it clear that it is a different drink.”
Garnishes make the drink
Although simple in preparation – just add Soda water – Wellington believes that when it comes to garnishes, that’s where the fun begins. “We recommend garnishing, the passion fruit with half a passion fruit. You actually, you get that real list of flavour on the palate. And then garnish with a ribbon a cucumber or a squeeze of lime to the cucumber lime and mint.
“But people can have fun, and certainly our on-premise partners have got quite flamboyant with the way they’re garnishing.
The 700ml bottle is available now at all good liquor stores nationwide. For more information visit@smirnoffaustralia.