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High-End Liqueurs Defy Trends As Baileys, Grand Marnier Make Progress

December 19, 2016

While the U.S. liqueurs category has been struggling overall—projected to slip 1% to 18.7 million nine-liter cases this year, according to Impact Databank—a number of key brands retailing above $25 a bottle are in growth mode.

The super-premium liqueur segment’s dominant player, Baileys Irish Cream, is showing signs of a rebound in the U.S., where it averaged an annual 1.3% decline between 2010-2015. This year, the Diageo cream liqueur is projected to grow 2% to 1.3 million cases, thanks in part to innovations like this fall’s release of a Pumpkin Spice seasonal entry ($25) and a dairy- and gluten-free Almande expression ($21), which was test-marketed this summer.

Upscale French import Grand Marnier is also on the rise this year, with Impact Databank projecting 0.8% growth to just under a half-million cases. Grand Marnier joined the Campari America portfolio this summer after Gruppo Campari gained control over parent group Société des Produits Marnier Lapostolle (SPML). Grand Marnier is now one of Campari’s global priority brands, and the company says it will be backed by significant marketing investments. “Grand Marnier has a strong footprint in the on-premise channel, which strengthens the route-to-market for our entire portfolio,” says Melanie Batchelor, Campari America’s vice president of marketing. Meanwhile, Campari’s namesake aperitif continues to surge in the U.S.—it’s now over 100,000 cases, having averaged 15% annual growth since 2010.

Patrón Spirits has experienced mixed results in its super-premium liqueurs business. The company’s Citrónge offering grew 10% to nearly 150,000 cases in the U.S. in 2015, but portfoliomate XO Café, has encountered challenges recently after a strong run of growth, slipping 8% to 120,000 cases in 2015. “There’s no question that the cordial category has experienced some weakness and shot brands have slowed as well, so that’s certainly been a challenge for Patrón XO Café,” says Dave Wilson, president, international and global COO at Patrón Spirits. “But we’re in the long game, and we’re fully committed to the brand.”

Elsewhere, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, which Bacardi acquired from Cooper Spirits in 2013, continues to post double-digit progress, having nearly tripled to 113,000 cases over the past five years. Another of Bacardi’s upscale liqueurs B&B, rose 3.2% growth to 55,000 cases last year.

Cointreau has also bucked the category’s overall trend, and the Rémy Cointreau-owned brand continues to advance steadily, averaging 4% growth over the past half-decade to reach 250,000 cases. Likewise, William Grant & Sons has succeeded in turning around Drambuie, which it acquired in 2014. Now above 60,000 cases, Drambuie is benefiting from William Grant’s efforts to promote the brand through the mixology segment, as well as a full packaging refresh. “Since we acquired it, a community of bartenders and mixologists has emerged, who are being more creative with Drambuie than ever in its history,” says Jonathan Yusen, William Grant & Sons’ president and managing director, North America. —Kimberly Tharel

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