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Campari’s Bitters Lineup On The Rise As U.S. Consumers’ Tastes Evolve

January 20, 2017

The U.S. market’s growing interest in classic cocktails and bold flavor profiles has opened up new growth avenues for the formerly challenged bitters category, and leading player Campari America is taking full advantage. The company’s key bitters—including the flagship Campari and Aperol brands (both in the $25-$30 range)—have been expanding at double-digit rates lately, driving gains for a Campari America business that rose by nearly 5% in the U.S. in the first nine months of 2016. The U.S. became the top market for Gruppo Campari during the period (overtaking Italy), accounting for more than a quarter of its global sales.

The Campari brand has more than doubled in the U.S. since 2010, and is now over 100,000 cases, while Aperol has risen above the 50,000-case mark. Both brands’ strong progress continued in the nine months through September, Campari said, with Aperol’s sales leaping by 40%.

“The consumer palate in the U.S. has become a lot more open to bitter and intense flavors,” says Richard Black, vice president, marketing, vodka and Italian brands, at Campari America. “We’re also seeing a macro-trend toward lower-abv cocktails, especially in the brunch and happy hour occasions, and we’re having success with the Aperol Spritz in that space.” While the Spritz is boosting Aperol, Campari has been driven largely by its role in the classic Negroni cocktail. Previously, the majority of the two brands’ sales were derived from the on-premise, but the off-premise has been catching up and now accounts for roughly half of their sales.

Campari is using a similar template to develop its other Italian bitter brands, which include Cynar, Averna and Braulio. In 2015, the company introduced a higher-proof Cynar 70 expression, which it says is resonating with mixologists seeking more distinct flavors. Campari has also been promoting Averna through the Black Manhattan cocktail that replaces the vermouth typically used in a Manhattan with the Sicilian liqueur.

While it stokes ongoing growth in its bitters portfolio, Campari’s super-premium Frangelico liqueur, which has a sweeter profile and has sold around 85,000 cases in recent years, has faced a tougher road. “The after-dinner sweeter drink is struggling as a whole, and Frangelico is right in the middle of that,” says Black. —Kimberly Tharel

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