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Fireball, Tito’s, New Amsterdam Driving Market Growth As Holiday Season Approaches

November 3, 2014

As the U.S. spirits market heads towards the end of 2014—and into the crucial holiday selling season—three brands continue to overwhelmingly drive the market’s growth: Fireball, New Amsterdam vodka and Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

Through the first nine months of the year, Fireball sales jumped by 103% in NABCA channels, while Tito’s advanced by 88.4% and E.&.J. Gallo’s New Amsterdam rose by 44%. Collectively, the trio now accounts for nearly 5% of total NABCA spirits volume (which grew by an aggregate 2.2% over the first three quarters of 2014), up from less than 3% in the year-earlier period.

Fireball, New Amsterdam and Tito’s are also thriving in IRI channels. For the 52 weeks ending October 5, 2014, Fireball—the Canadian whisky-based liqueur owned by Sazerac Co.—was up by 173%, while Tito’s and New Amsterdam grew by 97% and 70%, respectively.

These three brands are undoubtedly the market’s star performers, but certainly not the only ones enjoying impressive growth amid challenging conditions. Hennessy VS Cognac progressed by 18.4% in NABCA markets over the first nine months of the year (the Hennessy brand advanced by 12% in IRI channels over the latest 52-week period), while Jameson continues its remarkable rise, with the Irish whiskey leader’s NABCA sales up 11.9% and its IRI business up 12.5%.

While New Amsterdam has quietly become one of the U.S. market’s top-selling vodka brands—it’s on pace to be among the top five by year-end—Fireball and Tito’s have encountered recent controversy. Tito’s is currently facing lawsuits in California and Florida challenging the use of “handmade” in its labeling. The brand’s owner, Austin, Texas-based Fifth Generation, Inc., says its labeling is appropriate, and that it will vigorously defend itself in court. Meanwhile, Fireball has been pulled from shelves in several Nordic markets because the liqueur was found to contain amounts of propylene glycol that are beyond what’s allowed by those country’s regulations (see related story).


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