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Defying Consumer Trends, Single Malt Scotch Continues To Post Strong Gains

May 16, 2011

Bucking the stiff consumer price resistance seen in most drinks categories, single malt Scotch depletions in the U.S. have grown for three consecutive years to reach nearly 1 million cases annually, according to Impact Databank.

The Glenlivet from Pernod Ricard continues to lead the single malt category in the U.S. at just over 300,000 cases. For the first nine months of the group’s 2010-2011 fiscal year, the brand surged 15%, due partly to strong U.S. demand, according to brand director Neil MacDonald. Last month The Glenlivet got a packaging makeover which emphasized its heritage and image. “We’re always looking to premiumize the brand—to show that this is something worth paying for,” MacDonald said.

The Macallan, owned by Rémy Cointreau, outperformed the category last year with a 7.2% increase to 134,000 cases in the U.S. “Single malts appeal to consumers who appreciate artisanal products, and this trend has taken hold and continues to grow,” says Jim Brennan, vice president, whisky and Brugal rum at Rémy Cointreau. The Macallan, whose marketing strategy is also heavily focused on education and awareness, has been the U.S. market’s second-leading single malt brand for five years, having leapfrogged global leader Glenfiddich in 2005.

William Grant & Sons, meanwhile, has made headway with Glenfiddich and The Balvenie, seeing a resurgence in demand over the last 12 months, according to William Grant & Sons USA category director Caspar MacRae. Both brands have been active on the innovation front—Glenfiddich with its limited edition Snow Phoenix ($89.99) and The Balvenie with its 14-Year-Old Caribbean Cask (around $60).

Glenmorangie, the U.S. market’s number-six single malt at just over 50,000 cases, has become a significant focus for brand-owner Moët Hennessy. Like William Grant, Moët Hennessy has been pushing innovation with the Glenmorangie Pride 1981 offshoot, aged in Bourbon oak and Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes casks, priced at around $3,600 per bottle. “These (special edition) launches give consumers what they’re seeking in a journey of discovery, while remaining brand-loyal,” says Brian Cox, vice president, business, at Glenmorangie. “Innovation is key in single malt, because it feeds people’s desire to learn more.”

US – Leading Single Malt Scotch Whisky Brands
(thousands of nine-liter case depletions)
Percent Change
Rank Brand Importer 2008 2009 2010 2008-2009 2009-2010
1 The Glenlivet Pernod Ricard USA 285 286 309 0.4% 8.0%
2 The Macallan Rémy Cointreau USA 125 125 134 0.0% 7.2%
3 Glenfiddich William Grant & Sons USA 102 100 107 -2.0% 7.0%
4 The Balvenie William Grant & Sons USA 47 50 55 6.4% 10.0%
5 McClelland’s White Rock Distilleries 49 52 54 6.1% 3.8%
6 Glenmorangie Moët-Hennessy USA 37 43 52 16.2% 20.9%
Total Top Six 645 656 711 1.7% 8.4%
Source: IMPACT DATABANK
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