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Flavored Whiskies Leading Spirits Market Growth In 2012

April 25, 2012

Flavored whiskies were the fastest-growing spirits type in the U.S. market in the first quarter of 2012—rising 154.8% to 94,000 cases in Nielsen channels—and the segment figures to be a hotbed of both innovation and competition looking ahead.

The category (defined by Nielsen as including flavored whiskies and whisk(e)y-based liqueurs) includes three Impact “Hot Brands”: Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, which sold 320,000 cases in 2011, its first year on the market; Jim Beam Red Stag, up 58% to 300,000 cases; and Wild Turkey American Honey, up 28% to 230,000 cases. Other category players like Evan Williams Honey Reserve and Cherry Reserve (which nearly doubled in combined volume to 100,000 cases) and 7 Crown’s Honey and Cherry extensions (which also nearly doubled, to 80,000 cases combined) have also seen rising sales.

“These brands are doing very well,” says Ed Callison, senior vice president, Wirtz Beverage Group. “It’s added a whole new category and we expect to see more flavors coming up.”

Indeed, this year has already seen a host of new product launches in the flavored and specialty whisk(e)y segment. Along with its 7 Crown entries, Diageo has added a Honey variant to its Bushmills Irish whiskey brand, while Sidney Frank Importing Co. is looking to provide a trade-up with Bärenjäger Honey & Bourbon, which at $29.99 a bottle is priced at a solid premium to all of the brands mentioned above.

Meanwhile, Beam recently extended the Red Stag franchise with two new flavors, Honey Tea and Spiced, and has also made gains with specialty portfoliomate Jim Beam Devil’s Cut. That label, which went national last year, “continues to be one of Beam’s top share gainers,” according to Rob Mason, the company’s senior director of U.S. Bourbon.

Southern Comfort, the Brown-Forman Bourbon-based liqueur brand, which has surrendered share to the torrent of flavored whiskies hitting the market, is continuing its efforts to expand its audience with new flavor options, including Fiery Pepper, launched late last year, and Bold Black Cherry, forthcoming in May.

“Fiery Pepper was introduced as a challenge shot for young adults, mainly men,” says Jason Kempf, U.S. brand director for Southern Comfort, Brown-Forman. “We knew as we were launching that it was a polarizing product.” Kempf says Bold Black Cherry will have “broader appeal than Fiery Pepper.”


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