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Impact Databank: Flavors Now Account For Nearly 30% Of U.S. Whisk(e)y Category

March 23, 2021

While the whisk(e)y renaissance appears to have endured the loss of most on-premise business resulting from the pandemic, the unprecedented off-premise spark has generated heightened demand for at-home cocktails. It remains to be seen whether these trends will continue for the long-term, but for the whisk(e)y sector specifically, flavors continue to play an outsized role among drinkers staying home and making their own cocktails.

Many of the new generation of whisk(e)y drinkers first entered the category through the flavored segment. But the major players have calibrated their strategies so as not to overwhelm the market with too many flavors, as might have happened with vodka. The flavored sector remains a growth engine that’s broadening the brown spirits audience to include more women, Millennials, and Latinos. And while whiskies in general haven’t enjoyed the kind of explosive growth registered by Cognac or Tequila during the pandemic, flavors’ momentum has been accelerating sharply, thanks to a bevy of newer products.

Last year, flavored whiskies rose by an aggregate 14.5% to surpass 16 million 9-liter cases, according to Impact Databank, and they now account for nearly 30% of the total whisk(e)y category. By comparison, non-flavored vodka brands combined to outperform their flavored counterparts for the ninth consecutive year in 2020.

Flavored whiskies were launched by the major Bourbon players more than a decade ago, and while the category has received a big boost from Canadian competitors like Fireball and Crown Royal in recent years, much faster percentage gains were registered by American brands in 2020, according to Impact Databank. Most notably, Infinium’s Skrewball peanut butter whiskey has seen exponential growth since its launch in 2018.

Amid a flurry of new product activity, flavors have been a key catalyst in the ongoing Bourbon boom, expanding the appeal of storied brand franchises such as Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, and Evan Williams, while also generating growth for relative newcomers such as Ole Smoky and Bird Dog.—Natalia Razzo

U.S.Leading Flavored American Whiskey Brands
(thousands of 9-liter cases depletions)
Brand Distiller 2019 2020 Percent
Southern Comfort Sazerac Co. 960 970 1.0%
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Brown-Forman 766 872 13.8%
Skrewball Infinium Spirits 162 581 259.5%
Ole Smoky2 Ole Smoky Distillery 325 497 53.0%
Wild Turkey American Honey Campari America 442 460 4.1%
Jim Beam Apple Beam Suntory 362 415 14.5%
Jim Beam Honey Beam Suntory 322 382 18.7%
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire Brown-Forman 401 382 -4.7%
Red Stag Beam Suntory 289 339 17.3%
Evan Williams Flavors Heaven Hill brands 277 302 9.0%
Jim Beam Peach Beam Suntory 201 279 38.9%
Bird Dog3 Western Spirits 170 228 34.5%
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple Brown-Forman 164 198 20.7%
Total Leading Brands4 4,840 5,905 22.0%
1 Based on unrounded data.
2 Includes flavored moonshine; excludes straight whiskey.
3 Excludes straight whiskey.
4 Addition of columns may not agree due to rounding.

Source: IMPACT DATABANK © 2021
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