Exclusive news and research on the wine, spirits and beer business

Exclusive: Brown Spirits Lead Way For Impact’s “Hot Brands,” While Vodka Also Looms Large

March 11, 2016

Impact’s “Hot Brands” are being unveiled at this morning’s Impact Marketing Seminar, and 27 spirits brands are among the honorees.

Making the list is no easy feat. All spirits Hot Brands must meet a minimum volume requirement of 200,000 cases, and also represent at least one of the following: 1) an established brand with double-digit growth in each of the past three years; 2) an established brand with at least 15% growth in 2015; 3) one of the U.S. market’s top 10 spirits brands with at least 5% growth in 2015 and at least 15% aggregate growth since 2012; and 4) a significant new product.

Despite such challenging criteria, every major category boasts a representative this year, including vodka; Bourbon, Canadian, Irish, Scotch and flavored whiskies; rum; gin; Tequila; Cognac; brandy; liqueurs and RTDs. The breadth of the group is testament not only to the ongoing importance of attractive branding—with many of this year’s Hot Brands clearly transcending their category—but also to the ever-evolving tastes of the younger generation of consumers, whose penchant for experimenting across multiple categories is well known.

Brown spirits in all their forms remain the order of the day, and sitting atop the list is one of the category’s household names—Crown Royal. While the Diageo-owned Canadian whisky had been making respectable progress recently, adding around 25,000 cases annually from 2012-2014, the 2015 launch of its Regal Apple expression ignited a year of explosive growth. With Regal Apple surging, Crown Royal advanced by more than 700,000 cases last year, according to Impact Databank, rivaling ascendant brands like Tito’s (+800,000 cases), Fireball (+610,000 cases) and New Amsterdam (+730,000 cases).

Meanwhile, Sazerac’s Fireball—the biggest driver of the flavored whiskey craze of the past half-decade—posted a healthy 16% advance last year, but that rate marked a clear deceleration from 2014, when the brand skyrocketed to incremental growth of more than 1.5 million cases. Nevertheless, in a sign of how quickly a brand can blast off in this era, it’s important to remember that Fireball—now at 4.6 million cases—sold only 800,000 cases in 2012.

The full report on Hot Brands for both spirits and wine appears in the March 1&15 issue of Impact. Beer’s Hot Brands will be announced in the May 15 edition.

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