Innovation Pays Off For The U.S. Market’s Top Imported VodkasFebruary 8, 2022
Imported vodka brands have been under pressure in the U.S. in recent years, battling for share and working to fend off the challenge from Tito’s. Imports’ share of the total 80-million-case vodka market in the U.S. slipped from 36.5% in 2012 to 27.5% in 2021, according to Impact Databank. Still, last year most of the leading import brands were in positive growth territory.
Innovation efforts appear to be paying off for imported vodkas like Ketel One, Absolut, and Grey Goose, all of which gained ground last year. Grey Goose, the largest imported vodka brand in the U.S. by retail value at approximately $695 million last year, grew 3% to 2.1 million cases in 2021. “We’ve seen a growing desire for spirits that offer lower calories and natural ingredients, but don’t compromise on flavor,” says Aleco Azqueta, Grey Goose vice president of marketing at Bacardi. Those trends helped inspire the launch of the brand’s 30% abv Grey Goose Essences last year. The Essences range includes Strawberry & Lemongrass, White Peach & Rosemary, and Watermelon & Basil expressions retailing at $30 a 750-ml.
Absolut enjoyed a solid rebound in 2021, increasing an estimated 2.1% to 3.2 million cases. Pernod Ricard married the RTD and the low-calorie botanical trends with the launch of its Absolut Vodka Sodas, canned cocktails available in three flavors: Lime & Cucumber, Grapefruit & Rosemary, and Raspberry & Lemongrass. “With our sales and velocity currently exceeding that of other global vodka brands with RTDs, we don’t foresee this drink trend going anywhere anytime soon,” says Lara O’Brien, senior brand director for Absolut at Pernod Ricard. Absolut also debuted a Watermelon flavor extension last year—the brand’s flavors represent about 20% of the portfolio—as well as a packaging redesign.
Ketel One Botanical was a pioneer in the lower-abv vodka space, and it continues to expand at a rapid rate. “Now in its fourth year, Ketel One Botanical is still experiencing double-digit growth,” says Olivia Kupfer, brand director of Ketel One at Diageo North America. Building on the success of the Botanical extensions, the company released Botanical Vodka Spritzes in 2020, RTDs that feature the three Botanical flavors, available in four-packs of 355-ml. cans ($15) or a single can ($4). Ketel One has tacked on a half-million cases in U.S. volume since 2017, according to Impact Databank.
Moët Hennessy-owned Belvedere launched a line of flavor-infused vodkas made with 100% organic ingredients last May. “Consumers are prioritizing high-quality ingredients and better-for-you options, which is something we’re really leaning into at Belvedere,” says Allison Varone, vice president of emerging brands at Moët Hennessy. The range includes three expressions: Lemon & Basil with a touch of elderflower, Pear & Ginger with a drop of Linden Honey, and Blackberry & Lemongrass with a hint of sage. These bottlings are part of the brand’s “Made with Nature” platform, which states that all new Belvedere products will be certified organic moving forward.
|U.S.—Top Seven Imported Vodka Brands
(millions of 9-liter cases)
|2||Absolut||Pernod Ricard USA||3.2||3.2||2.1%|
|3||Ketel One||Diageo North America||2.5||2.6||3.0%|
|5||Grey Goose||Bacardi USA||2.1||2.1||3.0%|
|6||Stolichnaya||Stoli Group USA||2.0||2.0||1.5%|
|7||Cîroc||Diageo North America||1.3||1.5||7.8%|
|Total Top Seven3||18.2||17.9||-1.8%|
|1 Includes flavors
2 Based on unrounded data
3 Addition of columns many not agree due to roundingSource: IMPACT DATABANK © 2022