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Phillips Projects 500,000 Cases for UV Cake This Year, More Than Triple Its Volume From 2011

February 14, 2012

While White Rock Distilleries’ Pinnacle vodka has garnered much acclaim for its dessert-flavored line extensions, flying under the radar is Cake, the UV vodka flavor from Phillips Distilling Co. Cake was launched last June and depleted 150,000 nine-liter cases in calendar 2011, becoming the second-biggest product in the UV line behind raspberry-flavored UV Blue. For 2012, Phillips expects Cake’s depletions to reach 500,000 cases.

While Cake ($12.99 a 750-ml.) has enjoyed rapid growth, its success doesn’t appear to be cannibalizing UV’s other flavors. Even excluding Cake, the UV vodka brand—which features 11 other flavors and 80-proof and 103-proof non-flavored editions—has been achieving 15%-20% annual growth. UV has won Impact “Hot Brand” honors for the past six years, and last year it posted a 19.4% growth rate to 1.2 million cases.

Inspired by the original Phillips flavored vodkas that the Minneapolis-based company introduced in the 1950s, UV vodka was launched in 2002. While other vodka brands usually start with a core product and follow up with flavors, Phillips took the opposite approach, first unveiling an array of flavors and only adding an unflavored version several years later. Phillips CEO Dean Phillips projects further expansion for UV in 2012, with total volume expected to reach 1.7 million cases.

“It’s been a steady, rapid expansion. Recently, the brand has had very consistent 20% growth as we slowly but surely penetrate distribution,” Phillips says. “To this day, UV is woefully underdeveloped in big markets like Texas, Florida and metro New York, which we’re diligently working on. As we penetrate those markets, we think the brand will really explode.”

Another key growth venue is California, currently UV’s biggest market at around 300,000 cases annually. There appears to be plenty of upside in the Golden State, as the brand is just now being launched there in the on-premise.

Competitors abound in the dessert flavor segment—led by Pinnacle ($14 a 750-ml.), which also has a Cake extension and its surging Whipped expression. The Wine Group entered the segment last year when it launched a vodka line under the Cupcake wine label and released Original, Chiffon, Devil’s Food and Frosting extensions (each priced at $17.99 a 750-ml). Diageo also unveiled new Smirnoff extensions last fall priced in line with UV Cake—Whipped Cream and Fluffed Marshmallow. Phillips, meanwhile, will release an extension to Cake in May and another flavor later this year. Details had yet to be disclosed at press time.

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