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Liqueurs Category Gets A Boost From The High End

December 18, 2018

While the U.S. liqueurs category has been in overall decline lately—down 0.2% to just under 19.2 million cases last year, according to Impact Databank—there are pockets of excitement, with super-premium players outpacing the value end. Enterprising marketers are creating new occasions beyond the core holiday season for key brands over $20, like Baileys and Disaronno, with year-round consumption being promoted in a variety of new serves.

The medium-term decline for liqueurs has mostly been concentrated in large, overextended brands, while focused brands with luxury appeal are carving out gains from smaller bases. The above-$30 liqueurs segment has grown to 1.3 million cases, and is now nearly 100,000 cases higher than in 2014, while the $20-$30 tier is now above 5.1 million cases.

Baileys was up 6.1% to nearly 1.4 million cases last year, and remains one of three liqueur brands in the U.S. market to deplete more than 1 million cases annually. The Diageo-owned brand has been stoking interest through a series of innovations like gluten-free Almande and Strawberries & Cream. “Baileys Strawberries & Cream launched in February as a limited-time seasonal offering, and was extremely successful,” says Baileys brand director Dorothy DeVenecia. She adds that Diageo is now positioning the brand as a “premium adult treat” to encourage consumption year-round.

Grand Marnier is the largest liqueur brand retailing at over $30. It grew by 5.7% to 516,000 cases last year and continued to rise in the nine months through September. In the on-premise, Grand Marnier’s recent activations have focused on the brand’s connection to Cognac and its versatility as both a cocktail ingredient and a sipper. Next year, Grand Marnier will extend its upscale Cuvée collection with a VSOP-focused release. “Cuvée Louis Alexandre will appeal to the growing VSOP-plus market and offer current Cordon Rouge enthusiasts an upgrade, as it contains 82% VSOP Cognac,” says Melanie Batchelor, vice president of marketing at Campari America.

Orange liqueur brand Cointreau has also posted growth lately, reaching 261,000 cases on a 2.6% increase. The brand recently unveiled a new “Art of the Mix” campaign, focused on its use in the Margarita.

Prestige Beverage Group-owned Kinky, the ninth-largest brand in the U.S. market and another player above $20, rose by 1.9% to 425,000 cases last year. The brand’s latest release, Aloha, is pineapple-, coconut-, and lime-flavored and has been a hit in the on-premise. Kinky brand manager Kelly Tomek predicts that the Kinky liqueurs portfolio could hit 500,000 cases next year, with a new flavor extension expected to launch in the spring.

While the premium end of the liqueurs market is generally in growth mode, Jägermeister slipped 1.8% to 1.66 million cases last year. Still, that performance is a marked improvement compared with previous years, and the brand is now taking aim at super-premium segment with Manifest, a sippable variant aged in American oak for over a year. For now, Manifest ($60) is primarily focused on the on-premise.—Shane English

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