Overall distilled spirits sales volume increased in 2013 for the 17th consecutive year, while overall wine sales volume saw positive results in 2013 for the 20th year in a row. Data just released in the Handbook Advance 2014, published by the Beverage Information Group, shows that total U.S. distilled spirits sales volume in 2013 rose to an estimated 210.6 million 9-liter cases, notching a 2.4% gain vs. 2012. That represents a sales volume bump of nearly 5 million 9-liter cases over 2012.
What’s more, overall spirits retail revenue growth—the combined dollar total of off- and on-premise sales—also increased in 2013, by a healthy 4.2% to $75.82 billion. That’s a gain of more than $3 billion over 2012. The higher percentage gain in spirits revenue vs. sales volume underlines the ongoing trend of recent years: the dynamic sales activity among premium-priced and above-premium-priced spirits products.
The same holds true in the wine segment: Total U.S. wine sales volume increased by an estimated 2.2% in 2013, to about 326.0 million 9-liter cases. This represents a sales volume gain of more than 6.8 million 9-liter cases vs. 2012 totals. And similar to spirits, the move toward high-end purchases continued in the wine category, evidenced by the segment’s 3.6% revenue increase in 2013, to just under $30 billion.
The huge vodka category now comprises 34.1% of all spirits consumed in the U.S. But following years of annual growth rates hovering around 6%, the category’s sales increased just 2.5% in 2013, to an estimated 71.8 million 9-liter cases, adding nearly 1.4 million cases to its sales total.
One explanation for the declining growth rate is simply the law of large numbers: The category has become so dominant in the spirits landscape that even a large volume increase does not equal a significant percentage increase. On the other hand, some observers believe that a bit of consumer fatigue with the wide array of flavored vodkas is finally affecting the market.
That may be true for some vodkas. But for others, flavors remain an essential element in their product mix: Several suppliers introduced new vodka brands, line extensions and flavors to the marketplace last year.
At the same time, the superpremium vodka segment remains a vibrant part of the industry.
Rum, the second-largest spirits category, also saw growth in 2013, though a very modest 0.3% to an estimated 26.83 million 9-liter cases. A variety of popular rum-based cocktails—the venerable Rum & Coke, the still-trendy Mojito—continues to aid category sales. Rum is also benefiting from new spiced and flavored product introductions, as well as growing interest in higher-end rum offerings.
Straight American Whiskey had a stellar year in 2013, with sales volume rising 5.6% to 17.45 million 9-liter cases. The category continues to be energized by growth in the superpremium segment, while also benefiting from flavored bourbon debuts. But the smaller American blends segment decreased by 1.5% to just over 4.86 million 9-liter cases.
For its part, overall Scotch whisky built on 2012’s modest gain (up 0.2%) to increase by 2.3%—one of the best showings for the category in recent years, totaling about 8.84 million 9-liter cases. Though several blended Scotch brands performed well, single malt Scotch sales saw an 11.7% across-the-board increase.
Likewise, Canadian Whisky added to its modest sales increase in 2012, with a 1.2% gain in 2013, to 15.65 million 9-liter cases. The segment’s recent popularity can be partly traced to an increase in high-quality, high-end offerings, flavored whiskies, and renewed interest in rye.
The smallest imported whiskey category, Irish and Other Whiskies, jumped another 16.1% in 2013, to nearly 2.5 million 9-liter cases. This was once again driven primarily by the ongoing success of Jameson Irish whiskey.
Tequila also increased last year, with consumption up a healthy 5.2% to 13.62 million 9-liter cases. Still largely driven by the perennial most-popular cocktail, the Margarita, the category’s consumption trends also take into account the various levels—from premium to superpremium to ultra-premium—of a brand’s portfolio.
The third-largest spirits category, Cordials and Liqueurs, saw a consumption increase of 6.1% in 2013, to 22.33 million 9-liter cases. The fast growth of honey-flavored whiskies (categorized here as liqueurs) most likely played a role in the gains.
The Brandy and Cognac category also saw sales rise in 2013, by 2.4% to 10.75 million cases. As was the case last year, the largest increases were in the high-end cognac segment.
The gin category continued its slight decline from last year, down 1.2% in 2013. But gin’s increasingly visible high-end segment posted a 3.9% gain. Finally, the Prepared Cocktails category declined, slipping 8.9% last year.
Table wine comprises nearly 92.0% of all wine consumed in the U.S., and it continued growing in 2013, rising 2.3% to reach just under 299 million 9-liter cases. Domestic brands continued to outperform imports, gaining 2.5%, while imported table wines were up 1.3% overall. Domestic table wines now represent 70.8% of the overall U.S. wine market.
Most industry observers point to the growth of premium- and superpremium-priced wines as an important dynamic in the marketplace. Still, the majority of the overall sales volume is composed of wines selling for less than $10 a bottle.
Champagne and Sparkling Wine posted a 2.7% increase in 2013, to just under 17.2 million 9-liter cases. Most of the growth in the category came from the more affordable domestic and imported sparklers.
Even smaller in size is the Dessert and Fortified Wine category, which declined another 2.0% in 2013, to 8.14 million cases, while vermouth was off 1.4%.
BRANDS MAINTAINING GROWTH
As always, there are beverage alcohol products in every category and at every price point that for many reasons have either lagged behind or outpaced their respective competitors. A combination of elements—including solid distribution and retail support, supplier resources, marketing creativity, product heritage and brand equity, the right economic environment, a solid product in the bottle, advantageous price positioning and sometimes just plain luck—often help lead to product success.
For example, during the height of the Great Recession six years ago, a number of high-flying brands suffered—particularly several superpremium-priced brands. At the same time, many value-priced brands thrived; and many others of differing price points adjusted to new market realities.
Since the economy recovered, most of those superpremium brands have regained momentum; simultaneously, a wide variety of additional brands have continued to make positive strides with consumers and retailers alike. Those are the brands that appear on the following pages. (The September 2014 issue of Cheers will publish Beer Growth Brand results.)
And, as we’ve said in the past, though evaluating category consumption trends can provide the big picture, drilling down to actual brand performance provides the details. Our annual Growth Brands report uses the most up-to-date industry results to highlight the wine and spirits brands with noteworthy growth over the past several years.
Identifying the Growth Brands
The categories of Growth Brands are designed to organize the wine and spirits brands demonstrating notable growth in a meaningful way, so as to help retailers, restaurateurs and the industry at large to discern the existing and emerging trends and tap into the opportunities. The criteria remain the same for distilled spirits and wine.
Fast Track Brands
The brand must have exceeded 100,000 9-liter cases in 2013, with double-digit growth over each of the past four years. All brands must be at least five years of age.
The brand must be less than five full years of age, and exhibited notable growth over the past few years, with a minimum of 20,000 9-liter cases.
Established Growth Brands
The brand must be a top seller, moving a minimum of 400,000 9-liter cases annually, and must have grown moderately or substantially over each of the past four years.
Comeback Growth Brands
Recognizes brands of significant volume that saw a sales decline in 2012, but which rebounded in 2013. This increase, however, must have resulted in total sales that are at least equal to or greater than the 2011 sales total.
FAST TRACK SPIRIT BRANDS
The Fast Track Growth Brands category includes the top-performing brands, percentage-wise, during the past four years. The criteria are demanding: A wine or spirit must have maintained double-digit percentage growth over each of those four years while selling at least 100,000 9-liter cases this past year.
Based on the Beverage Information Group’s 2013 statistics, 15 spirits brands made the Fast Track list this year, six fewer than last year’s total of 21. There are three new Fast Track spirits members this year, while three of the brands that fell off the list from 2012 have moved to the Established Growth Brand category.
Vibrant vodka brands
Overall, five vodkas are among the 15 Fast Track brands, with three of the top-five brands being vodkas. Burnett’s vodka leads the Fast Track: The brand gained another 15.3% in 2013, notching 2.35 million 9-liter cases. The value-priced vodka counts Pink Lemonade, Limeade, Orange Cream and Maple Syrup among its nearly three dozen flavors.
Tito’s Handmade, the above-premium-priced vodka from Texas, returned to the Fast Track, showing another year of amazing growth, up 41.2%, breaking through the 1 million case barrier to 1.2 million 9-liter cases last year. Tito’s has successfully leveraged its “made in America” heritage and maintains its single, original formula in a sea of vodkas that have added numerous flavors onto their mother brand.
Platinum 7X, a mid-priced, distilled seven times vodka, is another Fast Track repeater. It saw sales increase 12.7% last year, to 738,000 cases.
Other vodkas include new Fast Track member Exclusiv, which enjoyed explosive growth of 94.8% last year, to 565,000 cases. Imported from Moldova and priced at about $10 for a 750-ml. bottle, Exclusiv has successfully challenged the value-priced tier with its original vodka, plus several flavors, as well as a Rosé vodka, which is a blend of rosé moscato and vodka.
The final vodka on the 2013 Fast Track list is Pearl from Canada, which also returned to the Fast Track after another impressive year. The premium-priced brand increased its sales in 2013 by 15.7% to 250,000 cases.
Five different whiskey brands made the list in 2013, all of them Fast Track repeaters. Jameson Irish whiskey gained 250,000 9-liter cases, to about 1.86 million 9-liter cases. The brand continues to dominate the Irish whiskey category and is still one of the fastest-growing whiskey products with significant sales, percentage-wise, in the U.S. market.
The second Fast Track repeater is Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon Carolina Moonshine, which more than doubled its sales last year, gaining nearly 200,000 cases to 320,000 cases. Packaged in “moonshine-like” mason jars, the above-premium-priced Midnight Moon is handcrafted in small batches and includes the original 80-proof moonshine whiskey. Its 70-proof flavors Blueberry, Cherry, Strawberry, Apple Pie, Cherry, Cranberry and Blackberry are infused with real fruit.
Buchanan’s Scotch Whisky, first established in 1884, reached sales of 307,000 9-liter cases in 2013. The venerable portfolio includes Buchanan’s De Luxe, a 12-year-old blended Scotch made with a core of Dalwhinnie single malt; Buchanan’s Special Reserve, which is aged a minimum of 18 years; and top-of-the-line Buchanan’s 21-year old Red Seal.
Two American straight whiskies are repeating as the Fast Track winners. Bulleit bourbon increased sales by an impressive 52.4%, to 282,000 cases in 2013; the brand is also seeing success with a superpremium-priced rye it added to its lineup in 2012.
Woodford Reserve, another superpremium bourbon, gained 18.2% last year, to 214,000 9-liter cases. The straight whiskey launched Woodford Reserve Double Oaked bourbon in 2012, and also features a Master’s Collection that releases limited edition bottlings annually.
The three liqueurs in the Fast Track include two whiskey-based products, both of which have been listed here before. Fireball, once again, exploded in the market in 2013, more than doubling its sales to 1.87 million 9-liter cases.
The 66-proof, cinnamon-flavored whiskey liqueur has carved a niche for itself as a popular shooter. Fireball has spawned several similar brands from other suppliers in the wake of its enormous success.
For its part, Wild Turkey American Honey liqueur is one of the whiskey-based, honey-flavored product success stories. The 71-proof Wild Turkey Bourbon line extension reached sales of 335,000 9-liter cases in 2013, a 17.1% increase.
The third liqueur is RumChata, new to the Fast Track, having moved over from the Rising Star category after five years on the market. The above-premium-priced, rum-based liqueur posted sales of 460,000 cases in 2013, a 41.5% gain. The liqueur, which blends rum with cream, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon, comes in a uniquely shaped bottle.
Also new to the Fast Track is Ron Diaz, a rum imported from Barbados. The brand reached sales of 286,000 cases in 2013, a 15.8% increase. The Ron Diaz portfolio includes a spiced version, several flavored expressions, a regular dark and gold rum and a superpremium Grand Reserva.
Once again, the only Fast Track gin is Hendrick’s, the superpremium brand with subtle, not forward, juniper characteristics. The brand, which is infused with cucumber and Bulgarian rose, grew to 209,000 cases in 2013, a 20.4% increase.
RISING STAR SPIRITS BRANDS
Rising Star brands have been on the market four years or less and are represented here for a few reasons: They have demonstrated significant growth over a short time; they have made a notable impression in the market; or they are still relatively small (with a requirement of selling at least 20,000 9-liter cases) but show promise.
The list last year included 28 Rising Stars; this year there are 33, with 18 of them new to the category. Suggested retail prices for these Rising Stars span the range from a lineup of value-priced brands to a number of superpremium-priced products.
Once again topping the Rising Star category is New Amsterdam vodka, a companion to New Amsterdam gin. The competitively priced vodka from E&J Gallo increased its sales in 2013 by 75.0%, to nearly 2 million cases in just its third year on the market.
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey liqueur, which had a strong 2011 debut, had an impressive 2013, selling 595,000 9-liter cases—a 22.2% gain. Made from a blend of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey and a proprietary honey liqueur, the above-premium-priced brand is 70 proof and features notes of honey, cinnamon and spice.
Other flavored whiskey and whiskey-branded liqueurs are notable on the Rising Star list. Evan Williams Flavored Reserve Liqueurs, a line extension of Evan Williams Bourbon, includes the brand’s original Honey Reserve and Cherry Reserve flavors. The 70-proof liqueur reached sales of 165,000 cases in 2013, growing by 16.2%.
Cinnamon is hot
The Early Times Bourbon brand released the line extension Early Times Fire Eater Hot Cinnamon Liqueur, with sales of 20,000 cases in its first full year on the market. Apparently looking to emulate the success of Fireball, the 66-proof Fire Eater also hopes to appeal to a shooter constituency.
Ditto for SinFire Cinnamon Whiskey, which reached sales of 35,000 9-liter cases last year. The 70-proof brand has a thermostatic label that indicates when the bottle is chilled to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the optimum temperature for a shooter.
Another fast-growing Rising Star whiskey is Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine, made from grain alcohol, which features 16 flavors along with its original 100-proof White Lightning. The brand, which carries a $27 price tag, more than doubled its sales last year to 225,000 9-liter cases.
At 80 proof, Bird Dog Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey features its base brand along with four flavored expressions: Blackberry, Maple, Peach and Hot Cinnamon. Priced at about $20, the young whiskey brand reached 62,000 9-liter cases last year.
For its part, the spiced Canadian whisky, Revel Stoke, notched sales of 23,000 cases last year.
New whiskies and bourbons
Non-flavored whiskies include two Jim Beam Brand extensions. One is Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, which grew to 77,000 cases in 2013, a 42.9% increase. The relatively new expression uses a proprietary process to reclaim the whiskey that has been absorbed into the barrel, resulting in a unique taste.
Jim Beam Jacob’s Ghost is Beam’s new take on white whiskey. Jacob’s Ghost boasts a point of differentiation from other white whiskies in that it is aged for two years, imparting a smoothness to the product. Retailing for about $22, Jacob’s Ghost hit 50,000 9-liter cases in its first full year on the market.
The mid-priced Jesse James American Outlaw bourbon notched 26,000 cases last year. The company says the mid-priced brand is made in the traditional Southern manner, mellowed in charcoal and aged in oak casks.
The final whiskey among the Rising Stars is another newcomer, 2 Gingers Irish whiskey, which Beam purchased in late 2012. Launched in 2011 and made in the Kilbeggan Distillery, 2 Gingers posted sales of 30,000 cases in 2013, while apparently developing a loyal female consumer base. The Minnesota brand began national distribution this past February.
Rum and tequila brands on the rise
Several rums are repeating as Rising Stars, including The Kraken spiced rum, which had a 20.0% increase to 270,000 cases. The tar-colored black rum sells for above-premium prices and boasts a rich, spicy character.
Bacardi Oakheart reached sales of 190,000 cases in 2013. Oakheart debuted in 2011 as Bacardi’s first mainstream spiced rum product, joining a host of other spiced rum brands in the category’s most vibrant niche.
That segment also includes the returning Rising Star Blackheart Premium Spiced Rum, a 93-proof brand that is premium-priced. The brand sold 65,000 cases in2013.
And then there’s Shellback Caribbean rum from Barbados. The premium-priced Shellback includes a spiced and a silver rum expression; the brand sold 75,000 cases in its second year on the market.
New among Rising Star brands is Ron Barcelo rum, which features a lineup of eight expressions, ranging from mid- to superpremium pricing.
Familia Camarena tequila is back as a Rising Star, with notable growth of 36.0% in 2013, reaching 571,000 9-liter cases. Both the Silver and Reposado versions are made with 100% blue agave and produced using a small-batch, pot-still distillation process. Familia Camarena sells at competitive prices.
The above-premium priced tequila Zarco offers silver and gold expressions. Made from blue agave, it boasts a proprietary production technique. Zarco sold 140,000 cases last year.
Another tequila, Old Mexico, offers Oro and Blanco expressions at value prices. The brand reached sales of 25,000 cases in 2013.
And priced above premium is the lineup of Olmeca Altos Tequilas. The 100% agave brand hit 28,000 cases last year.
Hot vodka products
Its unique name might help drive sales of Kinky, a vodka liqueur: The 34-proof brand sold 382,000 9-liter cases last year, a 50.4% increase. Kinky, which retails for about $23, is a pink blend of mango, blood orange and passion fruit with five-times distilled vodka; there’s also a Blue version.
A more traditional vodka is new Rising Star Deep Eddy, a handcrafted, small-batch vodka produced in Texas. The brand tripled its sales last year to 190,000 cases. Unlike the more famous Texan vodka, Tito’s, Deep Eddy also offers Sweet Tea and Ruby Red grapefruit flavored expressions.
Another new Rising Star is Ivanabitch vodka, imported from The Netherlands, which gained 20% to sales of 192,000 cases. Selling for about $12 per bottle, the brand has grabbed attention with its tobacco-flavored expressions.
Other vodkas noted here include Wave, which posted 86,000 cases in 2013. The lineup of value-priced flavored vodkas is led by Purple Wave, a grape-flavored vodka.
Vesica vodka is a Polish, triple-distilled potato vodka. The value-priced brand reached 53,000 cases last year.
A higher-priced vodka (about $25 retail) making the Rising Stars for the first time is Devotion, which bills itself as “sugar-free” and “gluten-free.” Besides the original, the brand features five flavors, which altogether totaled 30,000 cases in 2013.
At a similar price point is American Harvest, a vodka that bills itself right on the front label as an organic spirit. The brand also boasts organic flavoring that comes across as a subtle vanilla sweetness. Made in Iowa, American Harvest reached sales of 35,000 cases last year.
At the superpremium level is Double-Cross Vodka, imported from the Slovak Republic and distilled seven times. Packaged in a uniquely shaped rectangular bottle, the brand reached 21,000 cases last year.
For its part, Twenty Grand is a vodka-infused cognac, retailing for about $29. The brand notched a healthy 50,000 cases its first full year on the market.
Another new Rising Star spirit is the pumpkin-flavored liqueur, Fulton’s Harvest. The brand posted 65,000 9-liter cases in its second year on the market.
Finally, two Sauza tequila branded line extensions are listed here: the prepared cocktail Sauza Sparkling Margarita, which had sales of 65,000 cases in its inaugural year, and Sauza Hornitos Lime Shots. Also a prepared cocktail, Sauza Hornitos Lime Shots notched sales of 30,000 cases in its first full year on the market.
SPIRITS ESTABLISHED GROWTH BRANDS
The Spirits Established Growth Brand category represents large-volume brands (sales of more than 400,000 cases) that increased sales over each of the last four years. The brands cited here are mostly mature brands; there are a number of premium and above-premium priced brands here, as well as several value-priced products.
Of the 26 Established Growth Brands in 2013 (nine more than in 2012), 16 return to the list from last year, and 10 are new to the category.
A dozen of the brands here are vodkas. Smirnoff topped the list once again, with 2013 sales of nearly 9.93 million cases—a modest 0.8% gain. Smirnoff maintained its position as the best-selling spirit in the U.S., aided by its lineup of flavored expressions. Its two latest flavors are Smirnoff Cinna-Sugar Twist and Wild Honey.
Svedka, the Swedish import, priced lower than most other well-known imported vodkas, reached sales of 3.95 million cases in 2013, a 3.3% increase. With several flavors joining the original brand, Svedka maintained its solid growth. It recently debuted Svedka Mango Pineapple and Strawberry Lemonade.
Speaking of flavors, Pinnacle vodka has created a niche with offbeat flavor extensions, such as Whipped Cream and Cotton Candy. It recently added Peppermint Bark, Caramel Apple and Cinnabon to its lineup. The brand hit 2.85 million case sales in 2013, an outstanding 11.8% gain.
For its part, Skyy vodka increased by 1.6% to 2.85 million cases. The above-premium-priced brand continues to promote its portfolio of Infusions natural flavored vodkas, with two recent additions: Vanilla Bean and Georgia Peach.
Ketel One has rejoined the Growth Brands family. One of the many superpremiuum vodka brands that suffered a sales decline during the initial throes of the Great Recession, Ketel One has regained its positive momentum. The brand posted sales of more than 2.1 million cases in 2013.
The superpremium grape-based vodka Ciroc, imported from France, is also new to the category, having moved over from last year’s Fast Track. Besides its original expression, the brand’s portfolio includes Red Berry, Coconut and Peach flavors. It increased sales by 3.0% last year, to more than 1.9 million cases.
Also new to Established Growth Brands is the superpremium-priced Belvedere, a rye vodka imported from Poland, which saw sales increase last year to nearly a half million cases.
The remaining five vodkas in the list are all generally below-premium-priced brands. Barton grew another 1.5%, to sales of more than 2.07 million cases last year; Skol hit sales of 1.93 million cases (up 2.7%); UV Vodka, known for its wide range of flavored versions, moved over to this category from last year’s Fast Track, posted sales of 1.61 million cases; Sobieski, the Polish rye vodka that features a trio of flavors, reached nearly 1 million cases last year; and Taaka Vodka, which gained a respectable 10.6% in 2013 to sales of 617,000 cases.
Non-vodka established growers
There are four tequilas in the category, with three of them featuring superpremium and ultra-premium expressions. Patron continued its positive sales momentum in 2013, with a 3.8% gain, to reach sales of more than 2.07 million cases. The brand’s latest expression is Gran Patron Piedra, an extra anejo that used a traditional “stone” production process.
Sauza, new to the category, features an extensive portfolio ranging all the way up to ultra-premium; the brand eclipsed the 2-million case mark last year for the first time. The line of 1800 Tequila totaled 960,000 cases, representing a 3.8% increase, while Juarez Tequila, a value brand, ended last year with sales of 820,000 cases.
There are six whiskies noted here, among them Crown Royal, the superpremium Canadian whisky, which jumped another 3.5% in 2013 to 4.38 million cases. The brand last year entered the flavored whisky field with its own Crown Royal Maple Finished expression; just recently, it debuted the ultra-premium Crown Royal XO, finished in cognac casks.
The venerable Jim Beam bourbon is one of the major players in the renaissance of American Straight Whiskey. It posted a healthy 10.8% gain last year to just under 3.5 million cases.
In addition to its popular base bourbon brand, Jim Beam had released several line extensions, most recently Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Year and Jim Beam Signature Craft Rare Spanish Brandy.
Two other bourbons continued to do well in the marketplace. The first, Evan Williams, climbed to sales of 1.65 million cases, a notable 15.3% increase. The bourbon’s base brand is competitively priced; however, it also features an ultra-premium, single-barrel expressions.
The superpremium Maker’s Mark Bourbon also maintained its growth status, gaining another 5.6% in 2013, with sales of about 1.25 million cases.
Johnnie Walker Black is new to the category and its only Scotch for 2013. The brand increased a respectable 6.6% last year to 917,000 cases.
Meanwhile, the value-priced Canadian whisky Rich & Rare returned to the Established Growth Brand category. The brand reached sales 833,000 cases in 2013.
Two rums made the Established Growth Brands list. Admiral Nelson spiced rum grew another 2.5%, reaching sales of 820,000 cases. Sailor Jerry, another spiced rum, notched sales of 733,000 case