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Flavors Fuel Whiskies’ Growth In A Turbulent Year

December 31, 2020

While whisk(e)y in general hasn’t posted the kind of explosive growth registered by pre-mixed cocktails, Cognac, or Tequila during Covid-19, flavored whiskies’ momentum has been accelerating sharply, thanks to a bevy of newer products. Last year, flavors rose by 12.5%, and they’re projected to sell well over 15 million cases in 2020—representing more than a 50% gain over the past five years, according to Impact Databank. In the 48-week period through November 28 in Nielsen channels, flavored whiskies grew more than 34% by volume, compared to less than 18% growth for the total whisk(e)y sector.

Amid an expanding array of new contenders, Fireball remains the undisputed leader among flavored whiskies, and its dominance continues. The cinnamon-flavored Canadian whisky product, which is part of the Sazerac portfolio, commanded a 40% share of the category last year and has become the U.S. market’s single largest-selling flavored spirit across all segments, according to Impact Databank. Flavors have re-energized the sluggish Canadian whisky sector, and Crown Royal can be credited with jumpstarting the super-premium tier. The flavor segment remains a growth engine that’s broadening the brown spirits audience to include more women, Millennials, and Latinos.

Flavors have also been a key catalyst in the Bourbon boom, expanding the appeal of storied brand franchises like Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam, Evan Williams, and Wild Turkey. And while the category is very much an American phenomenon, some of its leading brands have found overseas success as well—most notably Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, which sells over a million cases overseas, according to Impact Databank. With Bourbon experiencing dynamic growth in Japan and other markets, there appears to be considerable upside for flavors outside the U.S.

Flavored whiskies’ growth rate had slowed to single-digit gains prior to last year, but since then the category has continued to attract new consumers with a near-constant stream of new product introductions. Most recently, Infinium’s Skrewball peanut butter flavored whiskey has seen exponential growth since its launch in 2018. After depleting just under 162,000 cases last year, according to Impact Databank, Skrewball had been on track to sell nearly 1 million cases in 2020 until the Covid-19 pandemic affected the industry. But even bigger milestones await Skrewball and other flavored whiskies in 2021. —Juan Banaag

Leading Flavored Whiskies In The U.S. Off-Premise
(thousands of 9-liter cases)
Rank Brand Company Origin 52 Weeks Thru 12/1/19 52 Weeks Thru 11/29/20 Percent Change2
1 Fireball Sazerac Canada 807 973 20.5%
2 Crown Royal Regal Apple Diageo Canada 226 283 25.4%
3 Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Brown-Forman U.S. 153 177 15.9%
4 Southern Comfort Sazerac U.S. 158 170 7.1%
5 Skrewball Infinium Spirits U.S. 12 92 690.6%
6 Crown Royal Peach Diageo Canada 59 92 54.1%
7 Crown Royal Vanilla Diageo Canada 71 91 26.9%
8 Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire Brown-Forman U.S. 53 60 12.6%
Total Top 81 1,540 1,937 25.8%
1 Addition of columns may not agree due to rounding
2 Based on unrounded dataSource: IRI and IMPACT DATABANK © 2020
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