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Strong Growth Continues For The Top Whiskies In The U.S.

January 27, 2020

Along with Tequila and Cognac, both domestic and imported whiskies remain a key growth engine for the U.S. spirits market. Six whisk(e)y brands rank among the top 25 spirits labels in the U.S., and all of them enjoyed growth in 2019, according to Impact Databank estimates.

Crown Royal is at the head of the pack with an estimated 7.5% increase to 6.8 million cases last year, including flavors. “Crown Royal grew value by 13% in the first quarter of fiscal 2020 (ended in September),” Diageo North America president Deirdre Mahlan recently noted, adding that on-premise gains are helping to propel progress. “This is outperforming the category’s 8% value growth versus the prior year.”

Flavor extension Regal Apple continues to contribute solid growth for the Crown Royal franchise, which narrowly surpassed Jack Daniel’s last year to become the third-largest spirits brand in the U.S. overall, and the top whisk(e)y.

Jack Daniel’s added an Apple offering of its own recently, which helped drive mid-single-digit value growth for the brand family in the U.S. in Brown-Forman’s fiscal first half through October. Including its flavored offerings, which combine for more than 1 million cases, Jack Daniel’s increased 1.3% to 6.6 million cases in the U.S. last year, according to Impact Databank. The brand is now launching a new look for its cinnamon-flavored Tennessee Fire offshoot.

Jim Beam advanced at a robust 9% rate last year, including its flavor range. With last year’s acceleration, Jim Beam has now expanded by more than 1.5 million cases in the U.S. since 2015, and it’s within striking distance of the 6-million-case mark for this year—territory occupied by only five other spirits brands in the U.S. market.

At American whiskey’s entry level, Heaven Hill’s Evan Williams Bourbon brand continues to expand its following, with volume reaching the 3-million-case threshold in 2019. Evan Williams overtook Burnett’s vodka as Heaven Hill’s largest brand in 2018, and widened its lead last year with a 5.3% increase. Evan Williams added its fifth flavor extension last spring, an apple-flavored whiskey, building on a portfolio that already included Honey, Peach, Cherry, and Cinnamon.

Sazerac-owned Fireball also gained momentum in 2019, increasing 8.4% to 5.65 million cases. After years of strong growth, Fireball ($19 a 750-ml.) holds more than a 40% share of the flavored whisk(e)y category in the U.S. in volume terms, and it’s almost neck-and-neck with the Jim Beam franchise by volume as 2020 gets underway.

At Pernod Ricard, stoking further growth for Jameson remains a priority as the company welcomes a new chairman and CEO for its North America unit, Ann Mukherjee, who replaced Paul Duffy last month. Jameson slowed to 6.5% growth in 2019, according to Impact Databank’s estimate, but has still averaged an incremental increase of 300,000 cases over the past three years. In recent days, the brand unveiled a new Cold Brew extension taking aim at the trend toward coffee-flavored drinks in the U.S. market.—Daniel Marsteller

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