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Flavored Spirits Offerings Adapt As Consumer Tastes Evolve

September 26, 2014

Confectionary offerings drove the flavored spirits category to new heights in recent years, but the latest crop of flavor expression is showing its maturity with more complex tastes and broader appeal. Though vodka and rum remain heavyweights among flavored spirits, American whiskies are making a major move into the segment, and marketers are readying a slew of new flavored whiskey products.

Diageo is capitalizing on the demand for flavored whiskies with line extensions and new brands. The company added two offshoots to Jeremiah Weed Bourbon in September, debuting Sarsaparilla and Spiced, which is enhanced with cinnamon and clove. Later this month, Diageo will launch the Pie Hole Flavored whiskies brand with Apple Pie, Cherry Pie and Pecan Pie varieties. And in November the company will introduce the Gala apple-flavored Crown Royal Regal Apple to its portfolio.

Authenticity is increasingly critical for new flavor expressions. Jack Daniel’s debuted Tennessee Honey in 2011, and it was joined earlier this year by Tennessee Fire, which is enhanced with cinnamon and spice and is now available in eight U.S. states. Brown-Forman’s senior vice president and managing director of Jack Daniel’s says expansion will be measured, with no plans for a national rollout in place.

Another recent flavored whiskey rollout is Wild Turkey’s limited edition American Honey Sting—a blend of Bourbon with honey and ghost pepper—which is being launched this fall. Meanwhile, the original Wild Turkey American Honey “continues to deliver double-digit growth,” according to Umberto Luchini, marketing director at Campari America.

Flavor trends within the vodka and rum categories, meanwhile, are changing significantly. “Across the vodka category, confectionary flavors aren’t showing the same growth we’ve seen over the past few years,” says Jason Dolenga, senior brand director for vodka at Beam Suntory. “Consumer tastes are evolving.” Beam’s Pinnacle vodka brand is seeing strong growth this year for fruit flavors like Peach (+17%) and Red Berry (+30%).

Rum leader Bacardi has taken a tropical flavor approach with Pineapple Fusion—which blends pineapple and coconut—as well as Mango Fusion, a mix of mango and orange. Nearly two decades ago, Limón was the first major rum flavor extension to be released, and it’s still Bacardi’s top-selling flavor offshoot. Elsewhere in the rum category, Don Q has four flavors in its arsenal—Coco, Mojito, Pasion and Limon.

Impact’s special report on flavored spirits appears in the October 1 issue.

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