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Flavored Whiskies Are On The Rise, With Beam’s Red Stag Leading The Way

August 1, 2011

Launched in June 2009, Beam Global’s cherry-infused Red Stag ($17.99 a 750-ml.) was the first flavored offshoot for the flagship Jim Beam Bourbon brand. While flavors were already a well developed phenomenon in other categories, flavored whiskies were relatively uncharted territory. Beam not only risked alienating its consumer base with the launch of Red Stag, but also faced stiff headwinds from the economic downturn. But Red Stag proved an instant hit, moving 85,000 cases in 2009 to win recognition as an Impact “Hot Prospect.” Last year, the brand’s rapid rise continued, with sales jumping to more than 190,000 cases. Red Stag hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down in 2011. For the year through May 2011, the Jim Beam extension has moved more than 25,000 cases in control states, according to NABCA—a 38% increase that’s helping propel the brand toward potential “Hot Brand” status.

“From a Bourbon category perspective, 15% of all volume growth in 2010 can be attributed to Red Stag,” says Rob Mason, Beam’s director of U.S. Bourbon. “For 2011, its third year on shelves, we expect it to finish north of a quarter-million cases.” Red Stag has found particularly strong footing in New York, Texas, Michigan, Florida and California.

Red Stag’s remarkable growth has helped leverage the whisk(e)y category’s burgeoning flavor trend. Heaven Hill’s Evan Williams Honey Reserve and Cherry Reserve extensions ($14.99) have gotten off to strong starts, while Jim Beam archrival Jack Daniel’s also entered the segment earlier this year with the U.S. launch of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, priced at $22 a 750-ml. Meanwhile, liqueur line extension Wild Turkey American Honey ($19.99) from Skyy Spirits has also earned Hot Prospect honors and continues to grow briskly. Flavors have not only generated growth for their brand franchises, but have also helped usher new, younger LDA consumers into a category known for its male-oriented heritage. “We know that Red Stag is attracting new drinkers to the Bourbon category. Overall, Red Stag drinkers are both male and female, and typically they tend to be in their 20s,” Mason explains, adding that roughly 45% of the brand’s consumers are female—a share far greater than in the overall Bourbon category. Red Stag’s younger audience means it’s proving to be popular for shot occasions, which has significantly bolstered its on-premise business.

The question remains whether flavored whiskies will gain long-term traction. Beam Global has already made a double-digit increase in its total advertising spend for 2011, launching major campaigns for both Red Stag and parent brand Jim Beam, Beam’s president, North America Bill Newlands recently told Shanken News Daily. In January 2011, the company debuted Red Stag’s first television campaign, as well as a live concert series designed to showcase 10 different headlining acts.

“We see huge potential in this segment going forward, and we will continue to invest,” says Mason. “It’s important for Red Stag to maintain the pace that’s been set coming out of the gate. We want it to continue to be the leader within the flavored segment.”

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