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Vodka’s Super-Premium Leaders Aim To Reignite The Category

July 23, 2019

While vodka’s high end has faced challenges from whiskies and premium-priced domestic brands like Tito’s, the top upscale imported offerings combined to achieve positive volume growth last year. The top five vodkas in the U.S. priced above $25 a 750-ml. at retail rose 0.5% in aggregate to 4.5 million cases in 2018, according to Impact Databank.

Grey Goose leads the way in vodka’s super-premium tier at 2.26 million cases, up 3.9% last year. Bacardi recently launched an ambitious new marketing campaign aimed at pushing Grey Goose into more everyday occasions. The brand platform, called “Live Victoriously,” debuted in April and marked a 44% increase in spending for the brand, which spent $12.6 million on U.S. advertising last year, according to Kantar.

Grey Goose CMO Lee Applbaum points to a renewed on-premise focus as a path forward for reasserting Grey Goose’s identity. “You can paint on the canvas of vodka any way you want: sweet, spicy, classic, and so on, but we have to facilitate that creative spirit,” he says. “We can’t walk into bars and say, ‘This is how you have to serve us, bartender.’”

Cîroc, which ranks second in vodka’s super-premium segment, slipped 3.7% to 1.5 million cases last year, although it posted a 4.2% increase in control states in the year-to-date through this May. Historically, Cîroc has risen and fallen with its flavor launches. “Cîroc Apple and Cîroc Peach drive the most volume in our core flavor portfolio, and we’ve had strong limited time offering launches over the past couple of years with Summer Colada, Black Raspberry, and the new Summer Watermelon,” says Alex Picciano, Cîroc brand director at Diageo.

Belvedere, owned by Moët Hennessy USA, is likewise looking for a larger share of the super-premium pie. Belvedere declined by 2.4% to 410,000 cases overall last year, but rose 1.3% in NABCA channels in the first five months of this year. The brand is currently supported by a tie-in campaign with singer and actress Janelle Monáe that features a limited edition bottle and partnership with Monáe’s Fem the Future organization, dedicated to improving work opportunities for women.

Elsewhere in the above-$25 vodka space, Effen was up 2.7% to 210,000 cases last year, and has added 150,000 cases to its total since 2013. The Beam Suntory brand added two new flavored vodkas this spring, a Rosé offering and a Yuzu Citrus variant. Chopin Imports’ namesake brand rounds out the top five at 90,000 cases.

Both Stoli and Absolut are looking to continue building their upscale expressions, Elit ($50) and Elyx ($40), respectively. Absolut Elyx reached 35,000 cases last year and recently unveiled new packaging made from 40% recycled glass. Elit has likewise been gaining ground from a small base, focusing on the on-premise.—Shane English


U.S.―Top Five Vodka Brands Priced Above $25 a 750-ml.1
(millions of 9-liter cases)
Rank Brand Importer 2017 2018 Percent
1 Grey Goose Bacardi USA 2.18 2.26 3.9%
2 Ciroc Diageo North America 1.57 1.52 -3.7%
3 Belvedere Moet Hennessy USA 0.42 0.41 -2.4%
4 Effen Beam Suntory 0.21 0.21 2.7%
5 Chopin Chopin Imports 0.09 0.09
Total Top Five Above $253 4.47 4.49 0.5%
1 Includes flavors

2 Based on unrounded data

3 Addition of columns may not agree due to rounding.


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