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Flavored Whiskies Poised To Cross 11 Million Cases In The U.S.

June 11, 2018

While flavored whiskies’ progress has slowed from the double-digit pace of recent years, the category remains a growth engine that’s widening the brown spirits audience to include more women, Millennials, and Latinos. The top 10 flavored whisk(e)y brands in the U.S. all grew last year, with two labels—Crown Royal Vanilla (+43.8%) and Jim Beam Honey (+10.5%)—advancing by double-digits. Overall, the category increased 8.5% to 10.8 million cases in 2017—up from just 50,000 cases a decade ago—and it appears poised to continue climbing. In the last three years alone, flavored whiskies have added more than 3.5 million cases.

Last year, Sazerac-owned Fireball grew by 6.5% to 4.9 million cases, and will almost certainly cross the 5-million-case threshold this year. Only six other spirits brands currently outsell Fireball by volume in the U.S. market.

Meanwhile, Diageo-owned Crown Royal has successfully ushered flavored whisk(e)y into the super-premium segment, driven by its Regal Apple offering ($25 a 750-ml.). Regal Apple finished 2017 at 1.4 million cases, with a growth rate of 9.2%. Diageo followed up on Regal Apple with a limited-edition Honey variant, and most recently its Crown Royal Vanilla extension has caught fire. Vanilla is on track to exceed half a million cases by year-end. “Crown Royal flavors are growing at 10%, and Apple is at 11% growth, so we’re feeling exceptionally good about the category,” says Nicola Heckles, Crown Royal brand director at Diageo North America.

Brown-Forman’s Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey (+3.4%) and Tennessee Fire (+6.6%) both posted solid growth last year. “Tennessee Honey recruits heavily from the Millennial segment,” says John Higgins, vice president and marketing director for Jack Daniel’s at Brown-Forman. “It’s been bringing new consumers into the brand. Around 40% of those who try Honey are tasting Jack Daniel’s for the first time—and half of those consumers then come into the franchise.” Higgins adds that Tennessee Honey and Fire have been increasingly successful at leveraging the on-premise shot occasion. “Tennessee Fire over-indexes in the on-premise versus the brand family overall,” he says.

Since launching the cherry-flavored Red Stag in 2009, Jim Beam’s flavor portfolio has grown to include Maple, Honey, Apple, Kentucky Fire, and most recently Vanilla, which debuted last September. Of those offerings, Apple (+9.9%), Red Stag (+4.5%), and Honey (+10.5%) were the top performers last year. Overall, the Jim Beam flavored whiskey portfolio totaled 1.3 million cases in the U.S. in 2017, helping to drive Jim Beam’s total volume up 6.5% to 4.9 million cases.

While marketers continue to introduce new offerings, a handful of flavors represent the bulk of sales. “The flavored whisk(e)y category has countless flavor profiles, but the top three flavors—cinnamon, honey, and apple—account for 85% of volume,” notes Melanie Batchelor, vice president of marketing at Campari America. Accordingly, Campari has focused on its American Honey label rather than extending with a bevy of different flavors. American Honey was up 5.6% to 378,000 cases last year, and Batchelor also sees potential for expansion of its American Honey Sting offshoot, which offers a spicier profile.

“We’re seeing a stabilization of the category. It’s not growing as quickly as it was a few years ago,” notes Susan Wahl, group product director at Heaven Hill Brands. “But all of the top brands—and in particular the leading flavor of honey—are still strong, and the category as a whole is healthy.” Wahl notes that Heaven Hill is focusing on building its Evan Williams Peach extension, which the company believes can become its second best-selling flavor after Honey. —Mary Keefe

U.S. – Top 10 Flavored Whiskies
(thousands of nine-liter cases)
Rank Brand Company 2016 2017 Growth3
1 Fireball Sazerac Co 4,615 4,915 6.5%
2 Crown Royal Regal Apple Diageo 1,278 1,395 9.2
3 Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Brown-Forman 686 709 3.4
4 Crown Royal Vanilla Diageo 286 412 43.8
5 Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire Brown-Forman 363 387 6.6
6 Wild Turkey American Honey Campari America 358 378 5.6
7 Jim Beam Apple Beam Suntory 320 352 9.9
8 Red Stag Beam Suntory 320 335 4.5
9 Jim Beam Honey Beam Suntory 230 254 10.5
10 Evan Williams Flavored Reserves1 Heaven Hill Brands 233 250 7.3
Total Top 10 8,689 9,386 8.0
Total Flavored Whiskies2 9,965 10,810 8.5%
1 – includes Honey, Cherry, Fire, and Peach
2 – addition of columns may not agree due to rounding
3 – based on unrounded dataSource: IMPACT DATABANK
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