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Flavors Drive Crown Royal Forward

October 26, 2017

Long the torchbearer for Canadian whisky, Diageo’s Crown Royal continues to dominate the category at nearly 4 million cases in the U.S. market, excluding its flavored varieties. In keeping with overall Canadian whisky trends, the lion’s share of Crown Royal’s progress in recent years has come from its flavor portfolio. While the core Crown Royal was roughly flat by volume in calendar 2016, the flavor line was up strongly, thanks to the launch of two new additions, Vanilla and Honey. In Diageo’s fiscal year through June, Crown Royal saw its sales rise 13% in North America overall.

“I don’t expect the growth trajectory to continue at double-digits, but we should have very solid mid-to-high single-digit growth on an ongoing basis,” Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes recently told analysts. “What I’m particularly encouraged by is that the core deluxe Crown Royal is in growth and the flavors are bringing new consumers into the franchise.”

This year, Impact Databank projects that Crown Royal Vanilla will hit a half-million cases, up 75%, while Regal Apple—which launched in 2014 and became one of the fastest spirits offerings ever to reach 1 million cases—is expected to rise 2.5% to 1.3 million cases. Menezes sees ample room for the brand’s flavored whiskies to expand further. “If you look at the penetration of Crown Royal today, about 54% of Americans have tried the core Crown Royal Deluxe,” he said. “Only 16% have tried Apple and 5% have tried Vanilla. And when people try these variants, we’re drawing new consumers in and they become repeat buyers.”

Crown Royal’s flavored expressions have been particularly effective in appealing to key demographics like millennials, women and multicultural consumers, Diageo notes, and they’re expected to keep growing as their distribution footprint fills out. As of this spring, Crown Royal Regal Apple had only about half of the on-premise distribution of the core brand and about 85% of the core brand’s off-premise reach.

Looking ahead, Diageo plans to continue promoting Crown Royal through its “Live generously and life will treat you royally” platform, which Menezes said is working well. In addition to bolstering the core brand and continuing to expand its flavors, Diageo is also mounting a new push to make Crown Royal “the go-to status brand” for African-American consumers through its upscale XO expression. Crown Royal XO, which debuted in 2014, is a blend of 50 different whiskies that is finished in Cognac casks and retails at around $50 a bottle.—Daniel Marsteller

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