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Rum Moves To The High End In U.S. Market

June 28, 2018

Total rum volumes in the U.S. market declined 1% to 22.7 million cases last year, according to Impact Databank. But while rum has faced challenges in recent years, its leading players continue to eye growth at the premium-and-above tiers, where aged rum offerings are proliferating.

This year, rum leader Bacardi has revamped its portfolio, launching two new aged expressions: the four-year-old Bacardi Añejo Cuatro ($20 a 750-ml.) and the 10-year-old Gran Reserva Diez ($40). The new rums, which are permanent additions to the lineup, join Bacardi’s eight-year-old Reserva Ocho ($30) and the highest-end Gran Reserva Limitada ($100), a blend of barrel-aged rums aged up to 17 years. Both Gran Reserva Limitada and Reserva Ocho received a packaging update as part of the portfolio refresh.

Bacardi vice president and brand managing director Ned Duggan believes investing in the high end will yield a return to growth, following Bacardi’s 4% decline to 6.7 million cases last year. “We’re betting on the future of premium rums,” he says. “It’s a long-term venture, but we should be leading rum into a more premium space.”

Other brands too are focused on aged rums, aiming to recruit Cognac and whisk(e)y drinkers. Barbados rum label Pusser’s brought its 15-year-old expression ($70) back to the U.S. market this year. “The Bourbon market is huge, and much of it is enjoyed neat,” says Bruce Hunter, managing director of Pusser’s importer Shaw-Ross International. “Rums are heading in the same direction, which is why aged rums are becoming more significant.” Last year, Pusser’s rose by 8%, according to Hunter, who says the brand is set to breach the 50,000-case mark by year-end. The Shaw-Ross portfolio also includes Dominican brand Ron Barceló, whose newest variant, Imperial Onyx ($40), is aged for 10 years in heavily charred ex-Bourbon casks. Barceló jumped by 8% last year and is now at around 65,000 cases.

Elsewhere, William Grant & Sons is seeing success with Nicaraguan rum Flor de Caña, predominantly within the super-premium tier, where it’s present with a 7-year-old Gran Reserva and 5-year-old Añejo Clásico. Flor de Caña is above 130,000 cases in the U.S., according to Impact Databank.

Campari America’s Appleton brand has been emphasizing the uniqueness of Jamaican rum. Its portfolio—which includes super- and ultra-premium expressions such as Signature Blend, Reserve Blend, Rare Blend 12-year-old, 21-year-old Jamaica Rum, and 50-year-old Jamaica Rum—will soon feature a new limited-edition Appleton Estate 30-year-old.

Other key players are also on the move in the above-$20 rum segment. In January, Constellation took a minority stake in the Real McCoy rum brand from Barbados, which includes 3-, 5- and 12-year rums aged in Bourbon barrels and retailing from $20-$50 a bottle. And in recent weeks, Stoli parent SPI Group acquired full control of Louisiana Spirits, whose Bayou rum retails from $20-$37. Meanwhile, Proximo Spirits’ The Kraken continues to carve out gains, rising 4% to nearly 400,00 cases last year, and craft spirits player Biggar and Leith recently debuted Spytail, a new rum finished in Cognac casks. —Julia Higgins

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