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Disaronno Looks To Innovation To Accelerate U.S. Growth

August 31, 2021

On the face of it, 2020 was a difficult year for launching new products—doubly so for new-to-world entries with no established identity or customer base. Flying in the face of that conventional wisdom, Disaronno International has launched a number of new offerings over the past year to strong initial response. “2020 was our year for innovation, after not having any innovation in our portfolio, in the case of the brand Disaronno, for 500 years,” Ray Stoughton, executive vice president and general manager of Disaronno International, told SND. Disaronno’s core amaretto increased 1.1% to 336,000 cases in the U.S. last year, according to Impact Databank.

At the forefront of this innovation push is Disaronno Velvet ($30 a 750-ml.), a cream offshoot of the almond liqueur and the first line extension in the history of the brand, which launched in April 2020. Unable to pursue many of the typical brand activations that accompany a new product launch due to Covid restrictions, the company pushed forward on expanding its footprint, reaching between 12,000 to 14,000 accounts in its first six to eight months and bringing it to 35% of the distribution of the flagship product.

“Velvet was an opportunity for us to increase usage occasions on Disaronno and attract a new group of consumers,” Stoughton said. “It was just natural that we would develop a line extension for the brand as we continue to build it. The cream category was also very appealing from a price standpoint. We also launched a Disaronno Sour RTD. Everyone knows how well RTDs have done, and that was another opportunity to attract new consumers into the Disaronno franchise.”

Following the launch of Velvet, Disaronno has teamed up with Russian Standard vodka to promote the release through new twists on the White Russian cocktail and the Espresso Martini. The Velvet White Russian is made using Disaronno’s Velvet expression, Russian Standard’s vodka, and cream, mixed over ice, and the White Espresso Martini similarly offers a Velvet-focused twist on a modern classic. The new cocktails will be promoted via social activations and joint floor displays in retailers across the U.S.

Disaronno International followed up last September with The Busker, a new Irish whiskey brand produced at the company’s Royal Oak Distillery in Ireland. Due to the shortage of in-person events at the time, the core challenge was getting consumers to try The Busker in the first place, said Ignacio Llaneza, vice president of brand & trade marketing for Disaronno. Instead, the company relied on critical acclaim the product generated early on, before launching a $6 million advertising campaign earlier this year. Noting how much the advertising landscape has changed, Llaneza said the entire spend went to placement on digital platforms of various kinds, for instance, on the Hulu streaming service but not on cable television.

The new products don’t stop there. Another recent line extension is Tia Maria Matcha Cream Liqueur, launched in July. It’s the first offshoot of Tia Maria Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur, and has quickly been followed by Tia Maria Iced Coffee Frappé, a 5% abv RTD. Also in the pipeline is Engine Gin, developed in Italy and harkening to the country’s heritage of producing luxury automobiles. It will come in a package mimicking a container of motor oil and is sage- and lemon-forward. Stoughton and Llaneza promise more innovations are on the way.

“It was very difficult to launch new products and line extensions during such a challenging time,” Stoughton said. “But as we’ve pulled out of it and moved into 2021, it was actually blessing in disguise that we launched when we did, because now we’re so much further ahead with our innovation compared to other suppliers that put their plans on hold. We’re a lot closer to achieving our goals as a result of those hard yards we pushed through to launch our innovations during 2020,” Stoughton said.—Danny Sullivan

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