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Canadian Whiskies Bet On Flavors To Attract New Consumers

November 6, 2019

While Canadian whisky’s pace in the U.S. has lagged that of other brown spirits categories, marketers are drawing new drinkers to the fold with an array of flavor launches. According to Impact Databank, flavored Canadian whiskies now total more than 7.5 million cases in the U.S., representing more than half the flavored whisk(e)y category overall.

Leading flavored label Fireball was up 6% to just over 5.2 million cases in the U.S. last year. Momentum doesn’t show any sign of slowing, with the Sazerac-owned brand up 13% in control states in the year-to-date through September. The franchise has also been expanded into the cannabis category, with Fireball branded cannabis gummies rolling out in the Nevada market earlier this year.

Crown Royal’s stable of flavors continues to be a force in the segment, with the brand’s Regal Apple extension up 10.5% to over 1.5 million cases in 2018, and surging a further 17% in control states in the nine months through September. “Crown Apple plays a key role in recruiting new drinkers and opening new higher energy occasions for the brand portfolio, overindexing in ‘Drinks Out’ occasions and younger LDA consumers, females, and more multicultural drinkers than the full trademark,” Diageo North America president Deirdre Mahlan noted recently.

Though Regal Apple is king among the brand’s flavors, Crown Royal Salted Caramel has also been a key contributor around the holiday season, reaching 123,000 cases last year. Crown Royal Vanilla slipped 1.6% to 405,000 cases in 2018, but it has shown solid progress in NABCA channels in the year-to-date, rising 13%. This year, Crown Royal added a Peach extension, which brand director Nicky Heckles says was well received in the early going. The launch of Crown Royal Peach contributed to an overall 27% boost for Crown Royal’s flavored portfolio in control states over the first nine months of this year.

Recent Heaven Hill purchase Black Velvet is also active in the flavored segment of the category with Toasted Caramel and Cinnamon Rush, which combined for 185,000 cases last year, up 2.5%. “We’re going to be getting to know the brand and the category over the course of the next several months,” says Hannah Venhoff, senior brand manager at Heaven Hill. “We’ll make sure that we continue to support the brand, including its flavors, given its loyal consumer base.”

Phillips Distilling Co.’s Revel Stoke brand is likewise making a push in Canadian whisky’s flavor segment from its base of about 55,000 cases. “Revel Stoke is positioned at a very aggressive price point (around $12),” notes Phillips CEO Mike Duggan. “We think we deliver a lot of value for the price.” Revel Stoke has been testing a few new flavors lately, including a Black Cherry, a Peanut Butter whisky, and a seasonal Revel Stoke Cream targeted to the upcoming holiday season.—Shane English

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