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Jameson Still Dominant, But Competitors Are Rising In The Irish Whiskey Arena

October 5, 2015

Jameson has become synonymous with Irish whiskey, but the category’s other leading brands are also enjoying considerable growth in the U.S. market. Last year, Bushmills, Tullamore DEW and 2 Gingers—respectively the category’s number-two, -three and –four brands—sold more than 430,000 cases in aggregate, nearly double their combined output from 2010.

Bushmills made headlines late last year following Diageo’s agreement to sell the brand to Casa Cuervo in exchange for $408 million and Diageo’s full control of the Don Julio Tequila brand. Despite being backed by a variety of Millennial-focused initiatives—including its Since Way Back ad campaign—and the addition of an Irish Honey extension, Bushmills has lagged behind the rest of the category lately, remaining relatively stagnant at 230,000 cases in both 2013 and 2014. Still, the brand has quietly achieved solid progress over the years, and is now more than 60% larger than it was a decade ago. Bushmills officially switched hands in February 2015, and is now handled in the U.S. by Casa Cuervo subsidiary Proximo Spirits.

Tullamore DEW has had an impressive run under William Grant & Sons, which purchased it from Ireland’s C&C in 2010. Last year, the brand was up by 22% to 147,000 cases—more than twice the size it was in the U.S. when William Grant made the acquisition. “Tullamore DEW has experienced 22% growth in sales per point of distribution within U.S. on-premise accounts. Additionally, the brand is growing twice as fast off-premise than the entire Irish whiskey category,” says Cindy Wang, Tullamore DEW’s senior brand manager. The brand has undergone massive changes over the past several years, including new packaging in 2012—designed to emphasize brand founder Daniel E. Williams’s initials, “DEW”, which are displayed prominently—and the opening of a new $50 million distillery in 2014.

While Tullamore DEW’s U.S. growth remains impressive, another dynamic Irish whiskey brand—Beam Suntory’s 2 Gingers—is a newcomer. Launched in 2012 by Minnesota-based entrepreneur Kieran Folliard, 2 Gingers ($19.99) rapidly became the fastest-growing and second-largest Irish whiskey in Minnesota, selling around 20,000 cases there after just a year on the market. The brand has performed particularly well among Millennials and entry-level consumers. Following its rapid rise in Minnesota, 2 Gingers was snapped up by Beam Suntory in December 2012 and launched nationwide in 2014. Last year, 2 Gingers, which features a single 40%-abv entry, jumped 86.4%, to 55,000 cases in the U.S. market. Beam Suntory plans to launch a package refresh and a new consumer campaign for 2 Gingers in the first quarter of 2016.


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