As demand for tequila and Cognac rises and stalwarts like whiskey and vodka remain solid, where does rum fall? Though this spirits category isn’t on a soaring trajectory, a wider range of premium rums tied to their countries of origin and a greater consumer acceptance of rum as a quality spirit — not just a cocktail ingredient — has set rum up for success in the future.

The Evolution of Rum Consumption

Over the past 12 months, rum held 4.5 share of liquor sales, down slightly from 4.9 percent in the previous 12 months. This slight share drop is likely a result of the success of other spirits categories like tequila and ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails.

“Though rum share of the liquor category is down slightly year-over-year, the category has benefited from the liquor category’s overall growth,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights, who notes that rum has held a consistent two percent share of overall sales on Drizly over the past 24 months. According to the IWSR, rum volume was up 2.2 percent in the U.S. in 2020, despite being down nine percent globally.

“I believe more people are aware about rum now than ever before, and this trend is definitely growing,” says Ben Jones, the director of Spiribaum, North America. “A diversity of flavors and experiences derived from a variety of agave [spirits], whiskey, and even brandy or Cognac types of products have also pulled rum along with their own respective popularities.”

Consumers are also realizing that rum is a quality spirit that should be highlighted — whether in cocktails or on its own — not masked. “I think a lot of people originally believed that rum had to be mixed with Coke or added to a fruity drink with a mini umbrella sticking out of the top,” says Chris Rigby, the North American managing director of Don Papa Rum. “Standard white and spiced rums still dominate the market, especially in the U.S., but bars, liquor stores, and consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the vast array of styles and provenance offered by quality rum.”

Inside the Styles, Origins, and Brands of Rum

“There is a greater selection of quality rums available now than ever before,” says Jones, who represents several rum brands from Martinique and St. Lucia. “It is understood there are good quality rums deeply rooted in rich heritage originating from islands where rum is the heart of their culture.”

The most popular origin countries for rum on Drizly are Puerto Rico (28 percent), the U.S. Virgin Islands (20 percent), and Barbados (15 percent). However, consumers are increasingly exploring rums of different origin, with rums from the U.S., Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Venezuela, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Bermuda, and beyond all available on Drizly. Rigby also encourages retailers to consider stocking rums of lesser-known origins, such as Mauritius, India, and the Philippines.

Drizly’s Top-Selling Rum Brands, Last 12 Months

  1. Bacardi
  2. Captain Morgan
  3. Malibu 
  4. The Kraken 
  5. Sailor Jerry 
  6. Ron Zacapa 
  7. Diplomatico 
  8. Flor de Caña Rum 
  9. Mount Gay
  10. Plantation

Spiced rum is the most popular rum subcategory, holding 27 percent of share, followed by white rum (22 percent), flavored rum (15 percent), aged rum (14 percent), gold rum (10 percent), other rum (six percent), and dark rum (five percent). Most of this subcategory share has remained consistent from the past 12 months to the 12 months previous to that.

Drizly’s Top-Selling Rum SKUs, Last 12 Months

  1. BACARDÍ Superior White Rum
  2. Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum
  3. Malibu Original Caribbean Rum
  4. BACARDÍ Gold Rum
  5. The Kraken Black Spiced Rum
  6. Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
  7. Diplomatico Rum Reserva Exclusiva
  8. Ron Zacapa 23 Centenario
  9. Goslings Black Seal Rum
  10. Mount Gay Rum Eclipse

The fastest-growing rum brands on Drizly 2021-to-date include Two James, Coconut Cartel, Kula Rum, Breckenridge Distillery, and St. Petersburg Distillery.

Despite premiumization taking hold throughout much of the liquor category, the average price per unit of rum has remained flat year-over-year at $21.60, which is 24 percent lower than the average unit price of liquor on Drizly. 

However, Jone argues that this offers an opportunity for retailers. “Without question rum is the last mature spirit category to premiumize,” he says. “The dollars per rum bottle will certainly skyrocket as current rum drinkers trade up within the category and whiskey and tequila drinkers come over and seek out a new experience found with rum.”

Who Is Buying Rum?

Markets that over-index on rum sales relative to overall sales include Tampa, Houston, Miami, Orlando, and Bronx, New York, but Jones would hesitate to pin it to a certain age demographic: “Rum is fun and fun has no age decree.”

On Drizly, rum sales also tend to be quite seasonal, spiking during July and August, remaining strong through the fall, and dropping in the winter. 

However, don’t count rum out for other seasons. “rum has naturally sold better in the summer because people have always enjoyed rum under the warm sun or by the beach,” says Jones. “However, this is less the case these days.” He notes that spiced rum sales can spike in the fall, as it works well with autumn flavors, and aged rum is becoming more popular during winter months.

Premium Potential

Though Jones thinks that big brands likely fared better than smaller brands during the pandemic, he says “the pandemic flushed the merchants with confidence to trust the smaller yet better-known rum brands and offer them to their curious customers who were shopping for a new experience.” As more of these high-quality rums with connections to their origins become available and prevalent in the market, the opportunity to boost profit dollars with rum increases as well.

“A quality rum shelf set that matches what is offered in other spirit categories also gives the retailer great legitimacy as the destination for a great selection of quality,” says Jones, who recommends that retailers carry rums of Caribbean origin as the core of their selection. There are signs that premiumization is coming: super premium rum volume was up 20.4 percent in the U.S. market in 2020, according to the IWSR.

The continued growth of RTD cocktails may positively impact the rum category in the long term; rum-based Mai Tai RTDs have been some of the fastest-growing on Drizly in 2021, which could introduce new consumers to the category and potentially spur those consumers to recreate their favorite RTD flavors at home.

“I believe rum will occupy more space in the stores just as we have seen whiskey and tequila shelves grow in the last 10 years,” says Jones. “The future is bright for rum.”