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Phillips Distilling Sees Prairie Organic Driving Growth, Eyes Turnaround For UV

August 24, 2017

As demand for flavored vodka continues to cool, Minneapolis-based Phillips Distilling—whose top seller has long been flavor-driven UV vodka—is ramping up focus on higher-end sister brand Prairie Organic. While UV was down 4.8% to 1.2 million cases last year, according to Impact Databank, Prairie rose by 25% to 150,000 cases. Phillips Distilling vice president of marketing Scott Meek tells SND that Prairie Organic, which is led by its core unflavored vodka, will approach 200,000 cases this year.

“Prairie Organic has been an absolute rocket ship—it’s consistently growing at a high double-digit rate,” notes Meek, adding that the brand has enjoyed a recent uptick in national accounts. “We’ve picked up some strong distribution in Kroger and Walmart, and we also continue to see support from independents and the on-premise.” In addition to its flagship vodka, Prairie Organic also includes a cucumber-flavored extension, as well as a gin, all retailing in the $20 range.

Meanwhile, Phillips is looking to stage a turnaround for UV ($10), which was down 7.7% in control states through the first six months of the year. The brand recently received a packaging refresh designed to emphasize its American provenance, and is also phasing out many of its flavors. By the end of this year, the UV line will have 10 offerings, compared to a previous lineup that spanned more than 20 expressions. Current bestsellers include its unflavored UV Silver vodka and raspberry-flavored UV Blue, as well as its cherry and cake offshoots.

“The lion’s share of our volume and growth is in these core flavors,” says Meek. “But we had a long tail that was bringing us down and didn’t allow us to focus. This is a way to make sure we’re focusing on the flavors that are working for us.”

While flavored vodka remains difficult, Phillips is tapping into growing demand for flavored whiskies with its Revel Stoke Canadian whisky brand. Revel Stoke ($12) offers an unflavored Canadian whisky and spiced, cinnamon, pecan, apple, pineapple and root beer flavors, with a new honey flavor launching this month. The whisky brand has proven popular among millennial consumers, and last year surpassed 60,000 cases on 77% growth.

UV, Prairie and Revel Stoke account for the majority of Phillips’ business, but the company is also nurturing several small ultra-premium brands. It’s making a play in the high-end Tequila segment with the Centinela ($35) brand, and is also active in the Scotch and aged rum categories with Tomatin ($28-$1,000) and La Hechicera ($50). Earlier this year, Phillips forayed into mezcal, adding Marca Negra ($55-$200) to its portfolio. “We’re currently in a journey of diversifying and premiumizing our portfolio,” explains Meek. —Christina Jelski

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