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Fireball Cooling Off, But Flavored Whiskies Still Hot As Category Nears 10 Million Cases

June 16, 2016

The flavored whisk(e)y category continues to see dramatic growth, a trend that has led to an influx of new competitors. Total flavored whisk(e)y volumes in the U.S. were up 28% to 8.6 million nine-liter cases last year, according to Impact Databank. With growth at around 2 million cases annually over the past three years, the category is within striking distance of the 10-million-case mark for 2016.

The flavored whisk(e)y boom is continuing even as the category’s biggest player has cooled off. After enjoying an 11% increase in 2015, cinnamon-flavored Fireball (33% abv, $16-$18)—the category leader by more than 3.5 million cases—appears to be showing mid-single-digit growth this year. The brand was up by 6.5% in control states through the first four months of the year, according to NABCA, while achieving similar progress in IRI channels for the 20 weeks ending May 15.

Still, while Fireball’s gains clearly have slowed—it added 435,000 cases in 2015, after increases of more than 1.5 million cases in each of the previous two years—it remains a major force. Fireball is on pace to finish 2016 at more than 4.5 million cases—some tenfold larger than it was just five years before.

Meanwhile, Crown Royal Regal Apple (35% abv, $25), which sold roughly 850,000 cases in the U.S. in 2015—its first full year on the market—has emerged as the second-ranked flavored whisk(e)y brand. Just as Fireball’s success spurred a flood of cinnamon-flavored whiskies, Regal Apple’s fast start has been followed by a flurry of apple-flavored entrants. Perhaps most notable is Jim Beam Apple (35% abv, $16), which hit nearly 140,000 cases in just a few months on the market in 2015 and has been “the most successful launch in the brand’s history,” according to Beam Suntory Americas president Tim Hassett.

Brown-Forman has yet to add an apple variant to Jack Daniel’s flavored range, and its Tennessee Honey offering slowed to just 1.3% growth, reaching to 670,000 cases last year. On the other hand, Brown-Forman has gotten a dynamic performance from Tennessee Fire (35% abv, $25), which more than quintupled in size to over 400,000 cases in 2015. “Both Honey and Fire are recruiting new consumers into the Jack Daniel’s franchise—Jack Honey via African-American and Millennial female consumers and Jack Fire via Hispanic and Millennial men,” says Jack Daniel’s flavors brand director Casey Nelson.

Among other top-10 flavored whisk(e)y players on the rise, Evan Williams Flavored Reserves, Jim Beam Honey and Western Spirits’ Bird Dog all posted double-digit progress last year.

For a full report on the U.S. flavored whisk(e)y market, see the June 1&15 issue of Impact.

U.S. – Leading Flavored Whiskies
(thousands of nine-liter case depletions)
Brand Company 2014 2015 Percent
Fireball Sazerac Co. 3,940 4,375 11.0%
Crown Royal Regal Apple Diageo North America 100 850 +
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide 670 679 1.3%
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide 77 406 +
Wild Turkey American Honey Campari America 341 349 2.3%
Red Stag Beam Suntory 365 345 -5.5%
Total Leading Brands 5,493 7,004 27.5%


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