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Impact Databank Exclusive: Led By Maker’s Mark, Top Bourbons See Major Gains

June 5, 2012

Much of the dynamism surrounding the Bourbon segment has focused on recent flavor extensions like Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey and Jim Beam Red Stag. But Impact Databank’s exclusive survey of the top Bourbon brands in the U.S. market shows the category’s core brands have also been enjoying steady gains.

Beam-owned Maker’s Mark continues to set the pace for depletions growth. Maker’s was the only major Bourbon label to post a double-digit advance last year, and it has now expanded by more than 30% since 2008 despite being a super-premium brand in a sluggish economy. Flagship brand Jim Beam has been reinvigorated by its Red Stag and Devil’s Cut extensions, but the core brand itself also has been on the rise. Last year Jim Beam surpassed the 3.3-million-case plateau, a level it hasn’t achieved since the early 1990s.

Top category player Jack Daniel’s (technically a Tennessee whiskey) saw its upward progress halted during the recession, but it too has returned to growth, adding nearly 100,000 cases last year. If Jack keeps up that trajectory, it will cross 5 million cases in U.S. sales next year. As Jack Daniel’s has risen, fellow Brown-Forman label Early Times has slipped. Once a million-case brand, Early Times is a lower-priced Kentucky whiskey that “has been lost for a while, certainly with young adult consumers,” according to Mike Keyes, Brown-Forman’s president for North America, adding that flavor extensions on the brand are in the offing.

Heaven Hill’s Evan Williams, meanwhile, has pointed the way in the accessibly-priced Bourbon segment, having shown steady growth now for a solid decade. Since 2008, the core Evan Williams brand, excluding its successful flavored variants, is up more than 30% by volume.

Campari America’s Wild Turkey returned to growth in 2011 after struggling for three years under the economic downturn and a change in U.S. marketers. Now backed by a repack, a fresh ad campaign, a new production facility currently under construction and an increased focus on the cocktail crowd through its refashioned 81-proof variant, Wild Turkey is seeing more attention than it has in years. The same can be said of the Bourbon category in general, which is helping to drive a whisk(e)y renaissance in the U.S. market, surpassing 16 million cases in 2011 for the first time. “We think we’re now very well-positioned to ride this Bourbon wave that we’re seeing in the U.S.,” said Gruppo Campari CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz.

USA – Leading Bourbon Brands*
(thousands of nine-liter case depletions)
Brand Distiller 2008 2009 2010 2011 % change
2010-2011
Jack Daniel’s Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide 4,780 4,760 4,765 4,860 2.0%
Jim Beam Beam Inc. 3,130 3,115 3,225 3,305 2.5%
Evan Williams Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc. 1,010 1,235 1,285 1,330 3.5%
Maker’s Mark Beam Inc. 770 805 900 1,035 15.0%
Early Times Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide 650 655 615 570 -7.3%
Wild Turkey Campari America 570 550 550 555 0.9%
Total Leading Brands 10,910 11,120 11,340 11,655 2.8%
Source: IMPACT DATABANK
*includes Tennessee and Kentucky whiskies
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