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Beam Extending Skinnygirl With New Cocktails, Vodkas

February 27, 2012

Beam Inc.’s low-calorie Skinnygirl cocktail brand—which reached 586,000 cases on growth of nearly 300% last year—unveiled a line of wines earlier this month.Now Skinnygirl will be extended with a line of vodkas, as well as two new cocktails, Piña Colada and White Peach Margarita.

“We’re going big on innovation this year,” says senior brand manager Melanie Hellenga. “From one cocktail—the Margarita—when we acquired the brand last March, we’ll have 12 Skinnygirl products in-market by the end of this April.”

The Skinnygirl vodkas, which contain 60 calories per 1.5-ounce serving, will include non-flavored Bare Naked, as well as flavored vodkas Island Coconut, Tangerine and Cucumber, all retailing for $20 to $22 a bottle. “That puts us slightly below Ketel One, and about where Absolut played before it began dropping price,” Hellenga says.

The Skinnygirl cocktails, wines and vodkas usually will be merchandised in their respective categories, but some retailers, such as Safeway, have introduced low-calorie sections where they can be sold all together as a brand. Beam is also in talks with some key national on-premise accounts regarding Skinnygirl placements, says Steven Fechheimer, vice president, Skinnygirl global strategy.

The new Skinnygirl wines, including 2011 red, white and rosé California blends selling in line with their cocktail siblings at $13-$15 a bottle, were created in partnership with private-label producer The Winery Exchange. They’re relatively light at 100 calories per 5-ounce serving, but according to Fechheimer, “These are all 12%-abv wines, so they’re not the low-calorie/low-alcohol wines you see in markets like the U.K., some of which are 6% or 9%.” Beam is targeting above 200,000 cases for Skinnygirl’s wines for calendar 2012.

“We know that our core consumers, women from 30 to 39, drink wine 30 to 40 times as often as they drink ready-to-serve cocktails, so there’s obviously a big opportunity in that space for Skinnygirl,” Fechheimer adds.

Skinnygirl’s earlier line extensions—Sangria, which rolled out last summer, and White Cranberry Cosmo, unveiled ahead of the holidays—have fared well in the early going. Sangria sold 61,000 cases in calendar 2011, while White Cranberry Cosmo has sold 50,000 cases in just two months on the market, Beam says.

The company is planning a comprehensive media campaign including TV, print, digital and social media to back Skinnygirl this year, and expects the above-the-line and new-product push to keep what’s become one of the fastest-growing brands in the spirits industry ahead of the curve in the year ahead.

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