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Progress Report: Diageo’s Vodka Brand Launches From 2010

May 17, 2013

While Diageo has long been the U.S. market’s biggest vodka player, with top-seller Smirnoff and surging Cîroc leading its portfolio, the company has released a plethora of new entries in recent years to diversify its lineup. In 2010, Diageo rolled out four new vodka brands in the U.S.—Rökk, Moon Mountain, Godiva and Ursus. And although the brands appear small relative to Digaeo’s major vodka offerings, they’ve collectively added more than 300,000 cases annually and helped fuel growth.

Rökk, a Swedish import priced at $12.99 a 750-ml., has demonstrated steady double-digit growth since its debut, despite a fairly modest marketing presence. In its first year on the market, Rökk sold 85,000 cases, and rocketed to roughly 190,000 cases in 2011, according to Impact Databank. It continued its trajectory in 2012, rising more than 10% by volume to reach 210,000 cases.

Rökk’s launch marked a departure from Diageo’s typical innovation strategy, which usually involves the initial launch of a brand’s flagship offering, followed by a gradual rollout of flavors or extensions. With Rökk, however, Diageo launched the brand’s core unflavored expression (40% abv) alongside a full four-flavor portfolio (Rökk Apple, Citrus, Orange and Raspberry, all 35% abv). Additionally, Diageo has kept the brand somewhat under the radar, making only a handful of Rökk-focused marketing efforts, including a tie-up with comedy troupe Lonely Island in 2010 and a year-long partnership with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) the following year.

Diageo’s other 2010 vodka launches haven’t fared as well as Rökk. Ursus, priced slightly below Rökk, sold around 60,000 cases in the U.S. last year, while the higher-end Godiva chocolate-infused vodka ($30) was at approximately 35,000 cases. Meanwhile, Diageo’s Moon Mountain organic vodka ($20) has yet to make a dent in the market since its launch.

It’s early days for these brands, so it’s difficult to predict what the future will hold. After all, in 2005—its third year on the market—Cîroc sold 65,000 cases, only a 5,000-case increase over the previous year. In 2012, the brand was at more than 1.8 million cases.

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