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Bacardi Aims To Challenge Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum Supremacy With OakHeart Launch

August 8, 2011

Rum giant Bacardi has upped the ante in the spiced rum segment—long dominated by Diageo’s Captain Morgan—with the launch of Bacardi OakHeart, a 70-proof, spiced blend of Bacardi Superior and Gold priced at around $12.99 a 750-ml. The U.S. spiced rum category has experienced a new surge in popularity of late, even as overall rum sales have been relatively soft. In 2010, U.S. rum volume grew just 1.5% overall, while spiced rum advanced by as much as triple that rate, driven by both thriving upstarts—notably William Grant & Sons’ Sailor Jerry—and new brand introductions from larger players.

Rolling out nationwide this September, OakHeart will headline Bacardi’s spiced portfolio, which also includes the sub-premium Castillo Spiced brand and the Fiji-made super-premium offering Seven Tiki, launched 18 months ago. (OakHeart replaces Bacardi Spiced, which originally rolled out a decade ago and has since been phased out.) “OakHeart is a major initiative for us, and it’s going to be an integral piece of our growth plan,” says Toby Whitmoyer, vp, brand managing director for Bacardi Rums.

But OakHeart faces stiff competition from fellow spiced brands like Sailor Jerry ($14.99) and Heaven Hill’s recently acquired Admiral Nelson ($10), both 2010 Impact “Hot Brands.” Sailor Jerry (92-proof) has also helped spark a high-proof spiced rum sub-trend, which has led to higher-proof offerings from major brands, including Captain Morgan 100-Proof ($19) and Mount Gay Black Eclipse ($25) among others. “We really aren’t overly concerned about any one particular competitor—we are and have been for a long time the leader in rum and that’s the approach we’re going to take to the spiced rum segment itself,” Whitmoyer explains, adding that Bacardi will be making a “significant investment” in marketing the brand during and after its initial launch, both above and below the line.

OakHeart aims to target young LDA males and females—particularly LDA to 24-year-old males—which is expected to give the brand an on-premise edge. Off-premise, OakHeart plans to promote the “Oak and Coke” bar call with Coca-Cola retail co-packaging, in addition to sampling programs and an aggressive multi-platform advertising strategy. “We have high expectations for OakHeart to take its rightful place as a leader within the category,” says Whitmoyer.

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