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Tito’s, New Amsterdam, Ketel One Drive Vodka’s U.S. Growth

March 2, 2021

The vodka category—by far the largest spirits category in the U.S.—broke 80 million cases in 2020 for the first time ever, and has expanded by about 1 million cases annually over the past five years. The top 10 vodka brands in the U.S. grew by a collective 7% to 45 million cases last year, according to Impact Databank, comprising about 56% of the total market.

After years of expectations, Tito’s Handmade Vodka continued its seemingly unstoppable ascent and pulled away as the undisputed No.-1 by volume. The Texas-produced spirit, from Fifth Generation, has sustained growth of around 20% for years on its single, unflavored SKU.

“The vodka category comes down to one brand and you know which one I’m talking about,” Jess Bailes, president of Florida retail chain ABC Fine Wine and Spirits, told SND. “It’s Tito’s. It really is a phenomenal brand—right time, right place, right marketing plan. And I’ve been around a long time now—I’ve been doing this since 1978 so I’ve gotten to see a lot of great brands come along like Baileys, Captain Morgan, Absolut and Grey Goose, you name it. But Tito’s is different; everybody seems to be migrating in that direction, though Absolut is showing strength again in Florida, and Grey Goose has solidified its position.”

While it relinquished its spot as the top vodka in the U.S., Smirnoff also had a growth year in 2020, benefiting from a solid rollout for offshoot Smirnoff Zero Sugar Infusions and sweet and spicy flavor offering Smirnoff Tamarind. Diageo portfoliomate Ketel One showed a marked volume acceleration last year, as its Botanical expressions continued to connect with consumers. Meanwhile, E.&J. Gallo-owned New Amsterdam has also seen increased momentum lately, boosted by its pink lemonade-flavored Pink Whitney offshoot, which soared to 800,000 cases on its own last year.

Absolut and Grey Goose slipped in volume terms last year, but both have made moves to reinvigorate their franchises in recent months. Grey Goose is being extended with new Essences expressions infused with real fruit and cold-distilled botanicals. The 30%-abv lineup will initially include Strawberry & Lemongrass, White Peach & Rosemary, and Watermelon & Basil expressions, retailing at $30 a 750-ml. “While we do face the challenges that pertain to the vodka category as a whole, we’re continuing to highlight the quality credentials that set us apart and help us transcend the category,” said Martin de Dreuille, vice president of global marketing for Grey Goose.

Absolut has also been active on the innovation and marketing fronts, debuting canned vodka sodas and other RTD cocktails last year, and receiving its first TV exposure in three years last fall. The brand continues to be strong in the off-premise, Pernod recently noted, but has been held back by ongoing on-trade restrictions.—Danny Sullivan

U.S.Top 10 Vodka Brands
(millions of 9-liter case depletions)
Rank Brand1 Company 2019 2020 Percent
1 Tito’s Fifth Generation Inc. 8.77 10.35 18.0%
2 Smirnoff Diageo North America 8.80 8.93 1.5%
3 New Amsterdam E.&J. Distillers 4.80 6.10 27.1%
4 Svedka Constellation Brands 4.55 4.73 3.9%
5 Absolut Pernod Ricard USA 3.42 3.13 -8.5%
6 Burnett’s Heaven Hill Brands 2.74 2.65 -3.5%
7 Ketel One Diageo North America 2.40 2.61 9.0%
8 Pinnacle Beam Suntory 2.41 2.49 3.2%
9 Skyy Campari America 2.39 2.39 0.0%
10 Grey Goose Bacardi USA 2.23 2.06 -7.4%
Total Top Ten3 42.50 45.43 6.9%
1 Includes flavors.
2 Based on unrounded data.
3 Addition of columns may not agree due to rounding.

Source: IMPACT DATABANK © 2021

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