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Exclusive: U.S. Spirits Market Up 3% in 2012, As Vodka’s Expansion Continues

January 15, 2013

The U.S. spirits market achieved steady growth in 2012, as vodka solidified its position as the leading category on the strength of its top-selling brands. Total U.S. spirits depletions rose by 3% to 204 million cases, according to Impact Databank. The market’s top 25 brands, which account for nearly 45% of overall volume, grew by an aggregate 2.6% to 88.6 million cases.

Diageo-owned Smirnoff once again led the top 25, rising by 2.1% to 9.8 million cases—roughly 200,000 cases ahead of number-two Bacardi. Smirnoff was one of 12 vodka brands to place among the top 25. Remarkably, all but one enjoyed growth last year.

Smirnoff stablemate Cîroc made its top 25 debut in 2012, as its meteoric rise continued with a 700,000-case jump to 2 million cases. The ultra-premium French vodka’s sales have essentially tripled since 2010.

The market’s top brown spirits also fared well last year. Five whiskies made the top 25, and all but one—Seagram’s 7 Crown—posted growth. Flavor extensions are playing an increasingly prominent role in whisk(e)y, and they’re clearly generating excitement and introducing new consumers to the category. Constellation’s Black Velvet has been a prime beneficiary of the flavor trend. After years of lackluster results, the Canadian whisky entry achieved double-digit growth last year, largely on the strength of its Toasted Caramel extension, which launched in mid-2012.

Hennessy Cognac also achieved significant progress in 2012. Its 4.4% growth rate was surpassed by only five other top 25 brands—Cîroc (+52.9%), Black Velvet (+12.2%), Burnett’s Vodka (+10.8%), Pinnacle (+7.4%) and Ketel One (+4.5%).

As the exclusive top 25 spirits brands report in Shanken’s Impact Newsletter shows, the top-selling brands from white and brown spirits alike were on the rise in 2012, and are well-positioned for more growth in 2013. For the full report, see the January 1&15 edition of Shanken’s Impact Newsletter.

 

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