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Phillips Distilling Sees UV Turning Around, As Revel Stoke, Prairie Organic Thrive

February 5, 2016

Led by its flavor-focused UV vodka range, Minneapolis-based Phillips Distilling Co. has faced a challenging landscape lately as U.S. consumers continue to favor brown spirits categories. After tripling in volume from 2007-2012 and earning multiple Impact “Hot Brand” awards, UV ($12 a 750-ml.) stumbled in 2013, and then fell 17% in 2014, to roughly 1.3 million cases. However, Phillips Distilling vice president of sales Jason Connelly tells SND that the brand evened out last year, and is well positioned to stage a U.S. recovery.

“Over the 52 weeks of 2015, UV (was) roughly flat,” says Connelly, citing recent Nielsen data. “But the brand is faring well versus the category, and we’re seeing it turn the corner.”

UV’s improved performance is being driven by the unflavored 80-proof vodka and its raspberry-flavored Blue expression, its top seller, accounting for more than 40% of sales. Also showing progress are UV’s more traditional flavors, such as Apple, Vanilla and Peach, and the brand is seeing strong buzz surrounding more recent launches like Ruby Red Grapefruit and Sangria. UV will extend its philanthropic “Salute to the New Heroes” campaign this year, adding more national programming.

As UV looks to rebound, Phillips is enjoying rapid growth elsewhere in its portfolio. Revel Stoke Canadian whisky ($15) has tapped the market’s flavored whisk(e)y boom, rising more than 40% to 30,000 cases in 2014, and tacking on a roughly 25% gain last year. Revel Stoke’s flavor line includes Spiced, Cinnamon and Roasted Pecan (its best seller). Last fall, Revel Stoke extended with a limited edition seasonal, Pumpkin Spice, and also unveiled a new Roasted Apple entry, which is now expanding nationwide.

Meanwhile, the Prairie Organic Spirits range has become Phillips’ fastest-growing brand. Debuting with an unflavored vodka in 2007, Prairie Organic ($22-$25) has since added a Cucumber vodka, as well as a gin. The flagship vodka earned Impact “Hot Prospect” honors last year, after jumping from 39,000 cases to 80,000 cases in 2014. “We have a heavy on-premise focus with Prairie Organic, and it’s resonating with consumers,” Connelly says.

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