Cheers has added a new category to the Growth Brand Awards to honor brands that have shown sustained growth. The Hall of Fame recognizes brands that have won at least 15 Growth Brand Awards since the program’s inception in 1997.
Seven spirit brands and one wine brand have qualified for that honor in 2015. The Hall of Fame Awards were presented during this year’s Growth Brand Awards ceremony in April at the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America Convention in Orlando. What makes these brands stand out from the competition?
Quality product, innovation and a brand story that resonates with consumers. Here’s a closer look at the inaugural class of the Growth Brands Hall of Fame—congratulations to all on this significant accomplishment!
Hall of Fame Entry Criteria
Each Hall of Fame winner must have at least 15 Growth Brand Awards out of 19 years that the Beverage Information Group has presented them. They can be in any category – Fast Track, Rising Star, Established Growth or Comeback Brand. For the complete set of criteria, visit cheerstest.wpengine.com/growthbrands.
All statistics are compiled by Adam Rogers, manager of information services for the Beverage Information & Insights Group. For more information about the Hall of Fame or other research products, please contact him at email@example.com.
THE CLASS OF 2015
The seven spirits and one wine brand inducted this year have won a total of 134 Growth Brand Awards over the years. Brands on the cusp below will be eligible for next year’s Hall of Fame if they win a 2016 Growth Brand Award based on 2015 calendar year sales.
HEAVEN HILL BRANDS
17 Growth Brand Awards • 2014 Sales: 2.61m 9-liter cases
Since its introduction in 1991, Burnett’s Vodka has led flavored vodka innovation. Now available in 37 flavors, including its original 80 proof and 100 proof, the brand offers the largest portfolio in the vodka category. Burnett’s was awarded a Fast Track Growth Brand Award in 2015.
Burnett’s growth has been bolstered by the flavored category’s explosion over the past few years. Last year the brand launched two new flavors — strawberry banana and ruby red grapefruit — as well as a new marketing campaign emphasizing the fun of consumption.
“In the year ahead, we’ll be continuing the ‘More Fun with Burnett’s’ campaign and launching two new flavors,” says Kate Latts, Director of Marketing at Heaven Hill. “We’ll also continue our in-store merchandising program with a new display that looks like a blue Solo cup, which is a major way the brand is consumed at young, fun, house-party environments.”
The recent declines in some corners of the flavored vodka category have not deterred Burnett’s. “We’ve been very prudent to launch flavors that fit with Burnett’s equity and have consumer relevance,” she says. “We’ve seen so many brands launch so many flavors and we feel the consumer eventually said, ‘enough already!’ We’ve tried not to follow the candy and confectionary flavor craze off the cliff.”
Burnett’s is analyzing its distribution partnerships to optimize which sizes and flavors should appear in each market, working on an account-by-account basis. “We’re really trying to paint he picture of our distribution and flavor mix with a finer paint brush to see which products are working best,” Latts adds.
16 Growth Brand Awards • 2014 Sales: 5.76m 9-liter cases (excludes Parrot Bay)
Named for a former Welsh sea captain and governor of Jamaica, Captain Morgan is the only rum in this year’s Hall of Fame class. Sam Bronfman, President and CEO of Seagram’s drinks company, arrived in the Caribbean in the 1940s and established the Captain Morgan Rum Company after establishing trading relationships with distillers across the region.
When the company subsequently purchased the Long Pond Distillery in Jamaica, Bronfman bought an age-old family recipe for spiced rum from two Jamaican pharmacists. That recipe would later become the inspiration for Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, which was introduced in 1983. Since then the portfolio has grown to include Silver Spiced, Parrot Bay, Tattoo and a number of other variants.
“We focus on two things — our customer and our liquid,” says Diageo North America VP for Marketing for Rums Dan Kleinman. “Captain is seen as a fun-loving spirit that gives people permission to take life less seriously and have more fun.”
Most recently, Captain Morgan introduced three new flavors to its portfolio: Coconut, Pineapple and Graperfuit. “As a brand that values innovation, Captain Morgan continues to evaluate changes in the rum category and consumer needs, and strives to exceed their expectations,” Kleinman adds.
The competition in the spiced rum category has grown in the past few years, with dozens of new entrants from national brands to craft and local products.
“We don’t foresee that trend changing anytime in the near future,” Kleinman says. “As adult consumers are seeking more adventure in their glass, the rum category continues to offer a high-quality spirit, now including new innovations and flavor extensions. The cocktail boom has greatly contributed to the success of Captain Morgan, since it’s known for high quality and mixability. We have high hopes for our flavor extensions and believe they’re perfect options for those looking to take their tasty, tropical cocktails up a notch.”
Chateau Ste. Michelle
STE. MICHELLE WINE ESTATES
15 Growth Brand Awards • 2014 Sales: 3.04m 9-liter cases
Opened in 1934, Chateau Ste. Michelle is the founding winery of Washington state and owns 3,500 acres of vineyards in the Columbia Valley. The Ste. Michelle Wine Estates brand was named a Comeback Brand for 2015, in addition to being the only wine inducted into this year’s Hall of Fame class.
The winery has been producing European varietals under the Ste. Michelle label since 1967 and is overseen today by Head Winemaker Bob Bertheau. Its vineyards include Canoe Ridge Estate and Cold Creek, which are LIVE and Salmon Safe certified. “Chateau Ste. Michelle is dedicated to crafting wines that are true to the varietal, expressive of their region and deliver outstanding quality and value to the consumer,” says Communications Director Lynda Eller.
The brand targets two types of consumers, according to VP and Brand Director Jan Barnes. One is the “approachable aspirer,” who enjoys every day wine experiences based on quality and value. The other is a more sophisticated wine lover, who skews toward red wines, loves to share wine knowledge and entertains at home.
Because of its large volume, Chateau Ste. Michelle has two winery facilities. Canoe Ridge Estate is dedicated to red wine, using state-of-the-art winemaking technology, including a research winery to improve quality. The brand’s facility in Woodinville, near Seattle, is dedicated to white wine. “Woodinville also has the beautiful chateau and grounds that welcome over 300,000 visitors per year,” Barnes adds.
The biggest trend in wine that Chateau Ste. Michelle is reacting to is a move toward premiumization. “We’re well-positioned to meet that need with various tiers and popular varietals, which deliver quality and value at every price point,” Barnes says. In the future, the brand “will continue the same dedication to quality and keep a close focus on consumers and their evolving needs.”
18 Growth Brand Awards • 2014 Sales: 4.28m 9-liter cases
First introduced in 1939 and available in the U.S. since 1964, Crown Royal is the category leader in Canadian Whisky. The brand began in Canada during a visit by British monarchs King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. To mark the occasion, the brand’s founder tested more than 600 blends before creating what they considered to be the best whisky. It was packaged in a glass bottle, wrapped in a purple cloth bag and presented to the King and Queen. By 1941, the brand had caught on with the Canadian people and its original production of 100 cases was expanded to wider distribution.
More than 50 million bottles of Crown Royal are sold globally each year. “We’re proud to uphold the same tradition of producing the finest quality whisky, just like the first 100 cases back in 1939,” says Diageo VP North American Whisky, Yvonne Briese. “Crown Royal’s uncompromising standards of quality are what set it apart from other whiskies on the market.”
Today, the brand is available in seven expressions, packaged in seven different colored bags, including green for the most recent addition, Regal Apple. “The growth of and interest in the Canadian Whisky category is fueled by a consumer mindset that whiskey is more approachable than in years past,” Briese says. “We love this! With the resurgence of classic cocktails like the Manhattan and Old Fashioned, as well as new flavored whiskies, consumers have a lot more options and reasons to responsibly enjoy whisky.”
Crown Royal plans to keep introducing new products in the coming years, including increased distribution of the Hand Selected Barrel program, which allows retailers to purchase straight-from-the-barrel whisky featuring the Coffey Rye at the heart of the Crown Royal Deluxe blend. “There is great growth potential among our family of products to continue to propel forward our stake in the category,” Briese says.
18 Growth Brand Awards • 2014 Sales: 0.93m 9-liter cases
Johnnie Walker’s storied history begins nearly 200 years, ago when the brand’s namesake began selling whisky at his grocery store in Scotland. In the 1860s, John Walker’s son, Alexander, created the square bottle and label the brand is known for. Today the brand is available in more than 200 countries in expressions including Red Label, Black Label, Double Black, Gold Label Reserve, Platinum Label, Blue Label and several small-release expressions.
“The portfolio is positioned as a leader around the world, since we have the largest inventory of the most sought-after whiskies to fuel global demand for both single malts and blends at the high end,” says Brian Cox, Director of Scotch Whisky for Diageo North America. “We also have one of the most recognizable trademarks in the world, with the Striding Man emblazoned on our bottle for over a century.”
Recently, the brand saw an opportunity to engage with younger LDA consumers as education, the pursuit of craft, the cocktail renaissance and pop culture have all increased excitement around whisky. “Before, there was a stigma around brown spirits for a younger generation of consumers who felt they were too challenging or ‘not for me,’” Cox adds.
For the past decade, Johnnie Walker’s “Keep Walking” campaign has created an emotional connection and relevancy of the brand in consumers’ lives, Cox says. “As a brand with a deep commitment to progress, Johnnie Walker embodies its own philosophy to constantly produce the highest-quality product, and continues its heritage of innovation to stay ahead of global consumer demands.”
15 Growth Brand Awards • 2014 Sales: 2.16m 9-liter cases
Ketel One is made at a 324-year-old distillery founded in 1691 and overseen by 11 generations of the Nolet family. The vodka was first introduced to the U.S. market in 1983. Distilled in Holland, Ketel One was named an Established Growth brand for 2015 and rounds out Diageo’s four Hall of Fame brands.
“My father, Carolus Nolet, Sr., is the founder and master distiller of Ketel One vodka,” says Carl Nolet, Jr. “He was the tenth generation of Nolet distillers to oversee our family’s distillery in Schiedam, Holland. Next year is a big milestone for us, as the family business turns 325 years old — we’re extremely proud and it’s quite an achievement.”
Every batch of the vodka is tasted and approved by a member of the Nolet family before it’s released, making the family’s lineage a key component in the authenticity and craftsmanship of the brand.
“We’re eager to open wide the doors to our distillery and have people see for themselves that our story of family distilling expertise is as real as it gets,” Nolet says. “Our commitment to quality and taste is what makes Ketel One a truly exceptional spirit.”
The brand relies on support from bartenders, who each have the opportunity to hear the brand’s story, taste test the vodka and learn how it’s made. The company also explains how Ketel One is named after the original coal-fired Distilleerketel #1. “The bartenders who sell our brand go through our taste test and experience firsthand the ‘four F’s’ of Ketel One — fragrance, flavor, feel and finish,” Nolet says. “Our focus has always been on what’s inside the bottle.”
Ketel One also relies on support from consumers and the recent trend toward quality and authenticity. “We’re very happy that today’s drinkers are more discerning than ever before,” Nolet says. “They’re more knowledgeable than ever and they increasingly seek out brands with a real passion for their craft and a real story. We take great joy in sharing our passion and we welcome those who want to learn more about the wonderful world of distilling vodka to come visit us in Scheidam.”
17 Growth Brand Awards • 2014 Sales: 1.34m 9-liter cases
Founded in 1953 by Bill Samuels, Sr. in Loretto, Kentucky, the Maker’s Mark Distillery is now a National Historic Landmark, welcoming visitors and Bourbon lovers to the brand’s homeplace. Since that time, the brand has introduced Cask Strength and Maker’s 46 to the portfolio. The Beam Suntory brand is overseen today by COO Rob Samuels, Bill Sr.’s grandson.
The first batch of Maker’s Mark was ready in 1959 and Marge Samuels, Bill’s wife, came up with the name, hand-torn label, bottle shape and idea to hand-dip each bottle in red wax. She was recently inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame, in recognition of her connection to the industry and the Maker’s Mark brand, being instrumental in everything down to the look and feel of the distillery.
“Our initial brand positioning hasn’t changed much over the years — we stayed true to a single-minded focus,” says Gigi DaDan, Maker’s Mark’s Senior Marketing Director. “Bill Samuels was a pioneer in the hand-crafted Bourbon category because he wanted to create a Bourbon he could enjoy drinking, which was also approachable.”
The number of consumers approaching the whiskey category has increased in recent years, especially as female drinkers and the younger generation have embraced Bourbon. “Maker’s Mark is getting our fair share of the women coming into the category,” DaDan says. “You see an increased interest across the board in premium and super-premium products, not just in the U.S. but around the world, which is really driving interest in the Bourbon category.”
Maker’s Mark also benefits from the renewed interest in cocktail culture, which matches the brand’s marketing efforts. “We’re educating a wider pool of drinkers and bartenders now,” DaDan adds. “That’s really how we’ve built the brand over the years — through the bartending community, relying on them to influencing consumers’ drinking behavior.”
And finally, the brand is benefiting most from the importance of authenticity to today’s consumers. “What you see when you go to the distillery is that through every part of the process, we have people working on the brand,” DaDan says. “It’s a hand-crafted process that people can see for themselves. Visitors can come down and see the men and women hand-dipping every single bottle, which is now well over a million barrels per year.”
18 Growth Brand Awards • 2014 Sales: 2.81m 9-liter cases
Since 1992 when it was created in San Francisco, SKYY vodka has challenged conventional wisdom in the vodka category. Known for its limestone filtration and cobalt-blue bottle, the brand has introduced a number of innovations over the years, including SKYY Infusions and the recently-released SKYY Barcraft. In only 23 years on the market, SKYY has received 18 Growth Brand Awards.
“As vodka has become more of a commodity game and many of the top players battle for shelf space by pulling the price level, SKYY is trying to stay out of the fight by building brand equity,” a brand representative says. “We’re laser-focused on building and affirming the vodka’s core truths of quality, innovation and style with everything from bold, new advertising, to marketing activations, to upgrading our bottle.”
SKYY has especially benefited from the craft cocktail movement and re-imagined classic cocktails. “With a few simple, fresh ingredients, SKYY is fostering the belief that you can make a terrific cocktail without too much fuss,” the brand says. “To stay relevant for bartenders and consumers, we’re developing programming that will emphasize great-tasting cocktails simplified, such as SKYY Barcraft.”
When the brand was acquired by Gruppo Campari about five years ago, that spirit of innovation could have easily been lost — however, the opposite has been true. “The acquisition put us in the position to be able to drive our own destiny,” the rep says. “SKYY’s focus is leveraging the amazing portfolio of brands, including Wild Turkey, American Honey and Forty Creek. Our brands mean something. Each has an interesting story and every single one of them is exceptional.”