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Canadian Whisky Marketers Use Flavors To Enliven Category

January 7, 2013

Despite the spread of the whisk(e)y renaissance throughout the U.S., Canadian whisky has remained a relatively sleepy category, sliding by more than 800,000 cases from 2007-2011, according to Impact Databank. But marketers have been working to invigorate the segment through the flavor route, and, with those efforts on track, a number of new flavor launches are in the pipeline for 2013.

Brown-Forman is among those looking to play the flavor angle with its Canadian Mist brand ($12 a 750-ml.). “You’re seeing a lot more flavored whiskies from Canada lately, mainly as a competitive reaction to what’s happening in Bourbon,” says Mike Haering, brand director, Bourbon and Canadian whiskies, Brown-Forman. “By summer, we’re likely to be announcing as many as four new flavors for Canadian Mist.”

Phillips Distilling Co. is also aggressively targeting the flavored Canadian whisky segment with its Revelstoke label ($17), which debuted two years ago. Phillips president and CEO Pedro Caceres says four new flavors are upcoming for Revelstoke, including a Cherry variant that will be in production by the spring. “We expect to extend the Canadian whisky category in much the same way we’ve extended our UV vodka line with flavors,” Caceres says.

Meanwhile, Beam’s Canadian Club, which rolled out a Dock No. 57 Blackberry flavor nationwide in September, is planning more flavored offerings as well, including Dock No. 57 Spiced, which is already sold in Canada and will likely expand to the U.S. sometime this year.

At opposite ends of the pricing spectrum, Constellation’s Black Velvet ($10) and Diageo’s Crown Royal ($25) are banking on recent flavor extensions to recruit new consumers. Black Velvet unveiled its Toasted Caramel variant this past summer, taking it slightly upmarket from the core brand at $12.50 a bottle, targeting males and females from 24-35. “Our regular Black Velvet has a core audience of 40- to 55-year-old males, so Toasted Caramel is after a pretty different demographic,” says Constellation marketing manager Joanne Vinci.

Crown Royal too is hoping to expand from its 4.19-million-case base with the recent launch of Crown Royal Maple Finished. While it’s still early days on that effort, Crown Royal has a strong recent track record on innovation—its upscale Black extension ($30), launched in 2010, is expected to hit nearly 300,000 cases this year.


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