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Crown Royal Leverages Flavor Range, Innovation To Reach New Heights

October 14, 2021

As one of only three spirits brands in the U.S. to exceed $2 billion in retail sales in 2020, according to Impact Databank (the others being Hennessy and Tito’s), Crown Royal continues to enjoy strong momentum behind a portfolio that encompasses super-premium unflavored Canadian whisky as well as top-performing flavor variants and a new RTD cocktail range. Across its product range, the Diageo-owned whisky brand totaled 7.3 million cases in the U.S. last year, up from 4.1 million cases a decade earlier. This year, the Crown Royal family is up 6.7% in control states through August, outpacing its average annual gains of the past 10 years.

While the flagship Crown Royal Deluxe continues to comprise the crux of the brand, its flavors are charting impressive growth, with Regal Apple (+10.5%), Peach (+30%), Vanilla (+11.5%), and Salted Caramel (+8.5%) all rising strongly last year. “Currently, flavored whisk(e)y makes up about one-fifth of the total whisk(e)y category,” says Nicola Heckles, vice president for Crown Royal at Diageo North America. “Flavors are adding something playful to what can often be a serious whisk(e)y category, which is attracting a lot of drinkers who would not have considered whisk(e)y before, as well as loyal whisk(e)y drinkers.”

In March, Crown Royal debuted a line of canned cocktails, adding another avenue for attracting new consumers to the category. According to Heckles, “Ready-to-drink options are also wildly popular and gaining momentum among consumers for the convenience they bring.” The 7% abv RTDs come in three flavors—Whisky & Cola, Washington Apple, and Peach Tea—all made using either Crown Royal’s original whisky or one of the brand’s flavored variants and retailing at $15 a four-pack of 12-ounce cans. Launching initially in eight markets, the cocktails gained nine basis points of U.S. spirits market share in their first six months, Diageo recently noted.

Higher-end offshoots have also contributed to Crown Royal’s recent gains, including solid performances last year for its Black (+3.5%), Reserve (+2.2%), and XO (+1%) expressions, which collectively have a dominant position in upscale Canadian whisky. This fall, Diageo will extend the brand further in luxury whisky with Crown Royal Aged 18 Years ($140 a 750-ml.), as well as Winter Wheat ($70), the latest offering from its limited-edition series the Crown Royal Noble Collection.

“The super-premium and luxury price tiers of whisk(e)y have continued to lead the way and Crown Royal is benefiting greatly from the trend as consumers explore more premium options available to them from brands they trust,” says Heckles. “Most importantly, the category is responding to new luxury consumers skewing younger, more urban and diverse, as old and outdated tropes of the category are quickly being rendered obsolete.”—Mary Keefe

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