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Pinnacle, Cîroc And Fireball Spark Spirits’ Rise In Control States

August 2, 2011

An eclectic mix of established players and impressive upstarts—covering all areas of the pricing spectrum—is driving spirits growth in control states across the U.S. In the first half of 2011, the seven biggest growth brands in control states—Pinnacle, Cîroc, Burnett’s and Svedka vodkas, Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, Skinnygirl premix cocktail and Jameson Irish whiskey—advanced by an aggregate 400,000 cases, accounting for 53% of spirits’ overall control state growth, according to NABCA.

White Rock Distilleries-owned Pinnacle ($14 a 750-ml.) led the way, with sales more than doubling from the year-earlier period to reach 387,000 cases. Propelled by the explosive growth of its Whipped line—which is on pace to become the biggest flavor extension in the U.S. market by year-end—Pinnacle is poised to sell more than 2 million cases in the U.S. this year. Higher up the pricing ladder, Diageo NA’s ultra-premium Cîroc ($32) nearly doubled its control state output in the first half of the year largely on the strength of its Coconut and Red Berry extensions, and is a solid bet to pass the 1-million-case threshold in the U.S. by year-end. Heaven Hill’s Burnett’s ($10) and Constellation’s Svedka ($13), meanwhile, have used their aggressive price-positioning to carve out significant growth both in control states and the larger U.S. market during the economic downturn.

Pernod Ricard USA’s Jameson ($25) may be priced in the super-premium tier, but the Irish whiskey leader has proven staunchly resistant to adverse economic trends or consumers’ fast-changing tastes. The brand’s annual U.S. sales expanded by roughly 500,000 cases from 2007-2010, and that upswing shows no sign of slowing in 2011.

Skinnygirl ($14) and Fireball may be much smaller than the other top growth brands, but both have made a name for themselves in their brief time on the market. Skinnygirl, which Beam Global acquired in March of this year, saw its first-half control state sales jump from less than 500 cases in 2010 to 34,000 cases in 2011. The premix cocktail range is now rolling out a Sangria product to complement its fast-rising Margarita entry. Meanwhile, Fireball ($16), Sazerac Co.’s 66-proof cinnamon-flavored whisky specialty, sold nearly 80,000 cases in control states during the first six months of 2011. While Diageo NA’s cinnamon-flavored Goldschläger liqueur has been basically flat at around 200,000 cases for the past few years, the hard-charging Fireball has become a favorite for shot consumption among the younger LDA crowd.

Fastest-Growing Spirits in Control States — First Half 2010 vs. First Half 2011
(thousands of actual cases)
Brand1 Company Origin/Type H1 2010 H1 2011 Case
Pinnacle White Rock Distilleries Imported Vodka 193 387 193
Cîroc Diageo North America Imported Vodka 56 108 52
Fireball Sazerac Co. Whisky Specialty 34 78 44
Skinnygirl Beam Global Spirits & Wine Prepared Cocktail * 35 35
Burnett’s Heaven Hill Distilleries Domestic Vodka 449 483 34
Svedka Constellation Imported Vodka 160 186 26
Jameson Pernod Ricard USA Irish Whiskey 91 114 23
*less than 500 cases
1includes flavors
2based on unrounded data

Source: NABCA

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