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Top Vodkas: Tito’s Hits 11 Million Cases In 2021, Absolut Returns To Growth

January 13, 2022

Vodka continues to be a battleground in the U.S., as a host of competitors vie to take share from leading player Tito’s, which reached another milestone last year. Tito’s vodka became the top-selling spirits brand in the U.S. overall in 2020, according to Impact Databank, and it extended its lead in 2021 with estimated 6.3% growth to 11 million cases, ahead of second-ranked Smirnoff by about 2.2 million cases, as the latter slipped by an estimated 2.9%.

While Tito’s growth appears to have slowed somewhat last year, its massive presence has continued to pressure other vodka brands in the U.S. market. As Campari Group CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz put it in a recent interview with SND, “You know how competitive vodka is. Skyy is doing no worse or better than the majority of vodka brands in the U.S. There is obviously one vodka brand that keeps doing very well, and all the rest are losing share. We relaunched Skyy at the beginning of the summer, and we know that it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Despite the tough environment, in addition to Tito’s, three other vodka labels among the top 25 spirits brands in the U.S. managed to post growth in 2021: New Amsterdam, Absolut, and Ketel One.

Absolut enjoyed a solid rebound last year, increasing an estimated 2.8% to 3.2 million cases. The Pernod Ricard brand debuted a new Watermelon flavored offering in 2021, and also received a new look in what the company called the biggest update to the brand since 1979. Ketel One, meanwhile, has continued to benefit from the growth of its lower-alcohol Botanical range. “Ketel One Botanical’s key claims have resonated with those who practice mindful consumption, and who are looking for spirit options that stay true to their daily choices,” says Olivia Kupfer, brand director of Ketel One at Diageo North America, adding that Botanical remains in double-digit growth.

But the clearest near-term challenger to Tito’s dominance could be Gallo’s High Noon Sun Sips—a vodka-based hard seltzer—which has vaulted into the ranks of the top 25 spirits brands by volume and continues to surge, as consumers increasingly favor premixed cocktails. High Noon jumped by nearly 80% to 5.2 million cases in 2021. If it maintains a similar pace in 2022, it could conceivably become one of the top five spirits brands in the U.S. by this time next year.

Given the success of High Noon, it’s little wonder that most major vodka brands—and spirits labels across the spectrum—have extended with premixed options over the past two years. Indeed, Impact Databank estimates that the premixed cocktail category in the U.S. leapt by 27% to 20 million cases last year.

“Some of our newest products are in the ready-to-drink sector,” notes John Barrett, COO of Pernod Ricard USA. “In May 2020, we launched Absolut Vodka Sodas and Absolut Cocktails. These new options are creating even more convenient ways for our consumers to create their own moments of conviviality with their favorite brands in RTD format.”—Juan Banaag

U.S.—Top Six Vodka Brands
(millions of 9-liter case depletions)
Rank Brand1 Company 2020 2021E Percent
1 Tito’s Fifth Generation Inc. 10.4 11.0 6.3%
2 Smirnoff Diageo North America 9.0 8.8 -2.9%
3 New Amsterdam E.&J. Distillers 6.1 6.1 0.5%
4 Svedka Constellation Brands 4.7 4.2 -10.2%
5 Absolut Pernod Ricard USA 3.2 3.2 2.8%
6 Ketel One Diageo North America 2.5 2.6 3.2%
Total Top Six3 35.9 36.0 0.3%
1 Includes flavors.
2 Based on unrounded data.
3 Addition of columns may not agree due to rounding.

Source: IMPACT DATABANK © 2022

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