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New Amsterdam, Tito’s Drive Solid Growth For U.S. Market’s Top 10 Vodka Brands

February 13, 2017

While vodka’s growth has been slowing over the past few years, the category’s prevalence among the U.S. market’s biggest-selling spirits brands demonstrates its continuing strength. Ten vodkas rank among the market’s top 25 spirits brands, according to Impact Databank, with entries coming from every tier across the pricing spectrum.

Smirnoff (around $11.50 a 750-ml.) remains the top seller by far—both among vodkas and the overall U.S. spirits market—with yearly sales north of 9 million cases. Over the past few years, however, the brand has lost ground. Like many of its competitors, Smirnoff’s flavored business—which had been integral to its growth—has slowed markedly, as consumers have increasingly flocked to flavored whiskies. In the 52 weeks ending December 31, 2016, while total vodka sales were up by 2.9% to 29.9 million cases in Nielsen channels, the flavored segment rose by only 0.1% to 4.8 million cases.

In 2016, Smirnoff achieved a 1.3% advance to 9.3 million cases, according to Impact Databank estimates. However, the brand remains smaller than it was in 2010.

Meanwhile, as with most of vodka’s more established players, Smirnoff has been impacted by a reshaping of the category engineered by two of the spirits market’s hottest brands: Tito’s and New Amsterdam.

The rise of Tito’s ($19) and New Amsterdam ($12) has been nothing short of astounding. Just five years ago, the two brands sold around 600,000 cases between them. In 2016, New Amsterdam Vodka and Tito’s sold almost 9 million cases in total, according to Impact Databank estimates, accounting for around 12% of the 75-million-case U.S. vodka category. Even after years of significant growth that’s made both brands’ bases huge, neither appears to be cooling off. New Amsterdam, from E.&J. Distillers, rose by 15% to roughly 5 million cases in 2016, while Tito’s was up by 33% to 3.7 million cases.

Smirnoff isn’t the only brand to cede share amid the rise of Tito’s and New Amsterdam. Fellow top sellers Grey Goose ($30) and Absolut ($19) are both below their volumes of 2010, although Absolut grew in 2016 for the first time in years. Meanwhile, Campari America’s Skyy ($13) finished 2016 at roughly 2.8 million cases, essentially matching its annual volume over the past half-decade.

With flavored vodka leveling off, Pinnacle ($11) has struggled of late. The flavor-centric brand was down by 0.9% to 2.6 million cases in 2016, and has barely advanced since 2012—the year it was acquired by Beam Suntory (along with Calico Jack rum) for $600 million. Meanwhile, Burnett’s—which has been similarly prolific with flavor launches—is faring well. The aggressively-priced brand ($8) now features nearly 40 flavor extensions, as Heaven Hill continues to fill the pipeline with new taste profiles to court consumers. Burnett’s was up by 4% to 3 million cases in 2016, and is currently twice as large as it was in 2010.

Svedka ($12) continues to carve out solid gains, with a 2.9% bump to 4.3 million cases last year that followed a five-year run in which it averaged 5% annual increases. Svedka overtook Absolut to become the market’s top-selling imported vodka by volume in 2015, and the Constellation brand doesn’t seem likely to surrender that position any time soon. —Peter Zwiebach

U.S. – Top 10 Vodka Brands1
(millions of nine-liter cases)
Rank Brand Distiller/Importer 2010 2015 2016E Growth
Rate3
2010-2015
Percent
Change4
2015-2016E
1 Smirnoff Diageo North America 9.6 9.2 9.3 -0.7% 1.3%
2 New Amsterdam E.&J. Distillers 4.4 5.0 + 15.0%
3 Svedka Constellation Brands 3.3 4.2 4.3 5.0% 2.9%
4 Absolut Pernod Ricard USA 4.6 4.0 4.1 -2.7% 0.2%
5 Tito’s Fifth Generation 0.4 2.8 3.7 50.0% 33.0%
6 Burnett’s Heaven Hill Brands 1.5 2.9 3.0 13.5% 4.0%
7 Skyy Campari America 2.7 2.8 2.8 1.0% -1.2%
8 Pinnacle Beam Suntory 1.4 2.6 2.6 13.3% -0.9%
9 Grey Goose Bacardi USA 3.0 2.7 2.6 -2.2% -2.5%
10 Ketel One Diageo North America 1.9 2.2 2.2 2.7%
Total Top Ten2 28.3 37.7 39.5 5.9% 4.8%
1 includes flavors
2 addtion of columns may not agree due to rounding
3 average annual compound growth rate
4 based on unrounded dataSource: IMPACT DATABANK
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