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Exclusiv Vodka Surges Past Half-Million Case Mark

February 10, 2014

While the U.S. vodka market slowed to 1.8% growth last year, according to Impact Databank, a handful of brands are seeing notable accelerations in growth. Competitively-priced Exclusiv vodka ($9.99 a 750-ml.) is one label that has quietly carved out a significant niche in the hypercompetitive mainstream vodka category, enjoying a run that’s seen it expand more than ten-fold since 2010 to cross the half-million case mark. Last year, the Moldova-sourced vodka brand, introduced in the U.S. market in 2006 by Serge Imports, grew 95% to 565,000 cases, according to Impact Databank.

Impressively, Exclusiv has achieved its growth with a distribution footprint that covers less than a third of the U.S. Currently available in 16 markets, it’s strongest in Georgia, Florida and New Jersey, with upstate New York and Connecticut also contributing significant share. Serge Imports founder and CEO Serge Chistov tells SND the brand may add two or three new markets this year.

Important pieces of the puzzle are still missing, such as the West Coast, but Chistov says there’s no rush to national distribution. The bigger goal is to forge strong partnerships with distributors who can take Exclusiv and make it their own. The company’s current relationship with Charmer Sunbelt is a good example, Chistov notes. In the meantime, Exclusiv’s core areas are continuing to deliver robust results. New Jersey, for one, was up about 20% to nearly 120,000 cases last year.

Exclusiv does the vast majority of its business—more than 90%—in the off-premise, although it’s now also showing on-premise progress in its more developed markets such as New Jersey and Georgia. With the retail side continuing to be key, Chistov doesn’t see much price fluctuation ahead. “We don’t plan on playing with pricing as much as continuing to monitor our quality and maintaining our margins where we’re comfortable within the growth spurts we’re experiencing,” he says.

In the flavored vodka realm, Exclusiv currently offers 10 extensions, with another release expected this spring. The latest offshoot, a brandy-flavored entry called Napoleon XO, was launched this past fall in only a handful of markets but is already finding strong pockets of interest, such as in the urban market in Georgia. Still, flavored offerings comprise less than half of the brand’s overall volume. “The main concentration of our business has always been and is the 80-proof regular vodka,” Chistov says.

With at least one new flavor coming out and new markets opening up in 2014, Exclusiv appears poised for further growth. Though preferring to stay on the conservative side, Chistov predicts about a 20% increase for this year. “But I’m never right,” he adds.

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