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Exclusive: Pinnacle Hits 3.3 Million Cases In 2013 On Continuing Flavor Focus

January 3, 2014

Since catapulting to national prominence with the launch of a series of dessert-flavored vodkas in 2011, Beam Inc.’s Pinnacle vodka brand has continued its climb into the upper echelons of the U.S. spirits market. After crossing the 3-million-case mark in 2012 on 14% growth, Pinnacle was up an estimated 6.9% to 3.3 million cases in 2013, according to Impact Databank. That performance represented the third-fastest growth rate among Impact’s Top 25 spirits brands in the U.S. market for 2013, with Pinnacle ranking 12th overall among that group by volume—and fifth among vodka brands, behind Smirnoff, Absolut, Svedka and Grey Goose.

Pinnacle’s rise over the past few years has been nothing short of meteoric. Launched by White Rock Distilleries little more than a decade ago, Pinnacle ($12.99 a 750-ml.) was still an under-the-radar brand as recently as 2006. The French vodka brand sold 150,000 cases in the U.S. that year, compared to 630,000 cases for then-portfoliomate Three Olives. However, after Three Olives was acquired by Proximo Spirits the following year, Pinnacle took on a new importance for White Rock, and jumped to more than 1 million cases by 2010. That surge, however, was nothing compared to what was to come with the launch of Pinnacle Whipped and similar confectionary offshoots, which resulted in the brand nearly doubling in 2011 off an already sizeable base to 2.7 million cases.

Beam acquired Pinnacle and stablemate Calico Jack rum from White Rock for around $600 million in 2012. And while Pinnacle’s growth has slowed over the past two years, as Smirnoff and other category leaders have intensified competition in the dessert-flavor segment, Beam tells SND it intends to keep Pinnacle at the forefront of innovation in the flavored vodka category, while also nurturing its core unflavored offering. “Consumers are always seeking new, premium flavors that are innovative and unique,” says Jason Dolenga, Pinnacle’s senior brand director. “Dessert and confectionary, along with fresh and unexpected flavors, are a significant driving force within the category.”

Pinnacle’s flavor line now numbers 39 expressions, with nine new flavors launched in 2013 alone. The latest additions include Pumpkin Pie, Peppermint Bark, Pecan Pie and Salted Caramel, which was among the top 20 new spirits products launched in the 13 weeks through December 7, according to Nielsen.

Pinnacle is kicking off 2014 with the nationwide release of its Cinnabon extension, a vodka made in collaboration with the cinnamon-roll specialists of the same name. Along with continuing flavor innovation, Beam will seek to keep up the brand’s momentum with a new national marketing campaign in the months ahead. The push will include new TV ads, digital and social marketing and national consumer sampling, Dolenga says.

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