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Rum Marketers Court Whiskey Drinkers To Tap The High End

May 11, 2021

Rum has long been resistant to premiumization, but in recent years a number of brands have seen increasing success higher up the pricing ladder. Among them are rums like Appleton Estate, part of the Campari portfolio, which grew 11% to 250,000 cases in the U.S. market in 2020, according to Impact Databank.

Last year, the Jamaican brand launched newly designed packaging, and an 8-year-old rum that replaced its Reserve offering. “The new look and feel for the brand and the age statement of the 8-year-old on a sub-$30 rum provided people with a lot of confidence in being able to pick up a bottle of aged rum at a reasonable price,” says Sean Yelle, category marketing director for dark spirits at Campari America.

Appleton Estate is banking on rum’s premiumization with its 15-year-old Black River Cask variant, which will be priced at $65 and debuts in early summer. “Consumers want to drink better, but they’re not able to find the value that premium rum like Appleton Estate represents,” Yelle adds. “If you were to compare our brand to some of the longer-aged whiskies out there, we’re often at a significant price discount for the quality of the liquid.”

At the $25 and over tier, super-premium offerings such as Plantation, Bumbu, and Diplomático were all on the rise last year, with Plantation jumping 13% to 110,300 cases, Bumbu up 92% to 72,000 cases, and Diplomático rising 39% to 41,000 cases, according to Impact Databank. Diplomático, marketed by E.&J. Gallo in the U.S., recently unveiled a new campaign called “The Heart of Rum” in partnership with chef Michael Symon.

Last fall, Plantation rum extended with two new Fijian bottlings. Plantation Isle of Fiji is a permanent addition to the range, retailing at $25, while Plantation Fiji Vintage 2005 is the first offering in a new Birds of Paradise vintage collection, at $80. Elsewhere, Remy Cointreau-owned Mount Gay rum reformulated and repackaged both its flagship Black Barrel expression and its XO variant last year, while adding a limited edition Port Cask expression retailing at $175.

Meanwhile, super-premium Venezuelan label Santa Teresa, distributed by Bacardi, launched a limited edition bottle ($48) last year in support of bartenders affected by the on-premise shutdowns, as well as cocktail kits targeting the home mixology occasion. “These programs have been great as they have not only helped to create an elevated cocktail experience for the consumer at home, but were also a means of supporting bartenders who were unable to work due to the pandemic,” notes Geoff Robinson, global brand ambassador for Santa Teresa.

Bacardi also has its eye on greater premiumization for its namesake brand going forward. “Over the course of the next five to 10 years, we’ll push toward introducing our aged rums to consumers who don’t really know rum as a dark spirit and as a more premium spirit,” says the brand’s global senior vice president Ned Duggan. “So we continue to invest behind Bacardi Cuatro, Bacardi Ocho, and Bacardi Diez for the long-term.”—Amber Drea

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