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Innovations Stoke Further Growth For Irish Whiskey Leader Jameson

July 7, 2022

Pernod Ricard dominates Irish whiskey with an 80% market share in the U.S., led by the Jameson brand, which is back on the rise after a rare decline in 2020 during the initial outbreak of the pandemic. Jameson’s depletions surged 14% last year and surpassed 4 million cases in the U.S. for the first time, far outstripping its pre-pandemic volume of 3.7 million cases. Last year’s gains were led by Jameson Original (+17%) and Black Barrel (+11%), which have continued to increase in 2022, with the brand’s volume up 4.3% in control states in the year-to-date through May. Pernod Ricard has also seen impressive growth from its smaller but more upscale Irish whiskey expressions Redbreast (+18.5% last year) and the Spot collection (+15%).

“The premiumization of whiskey has not slowed down,” says Sona Bajaria, vice president, Jameson at Pernod Ricard USA. “Jameson Black Barrel has grown double-digits for four consecutive years and is the leading super-premium Irish whiskey on the market. More consumers continue to dip their toes in the whiskey category and whiskey lovers continue to trade up to more premium SKUs.”

In addition to the higher-priced Black Barrel, Jameson has extended recently with flavored offerings like Cold Brew and Orange—the latter marking Pernod Ricard USA’s most successful innovation in five years, according to North America chairman and CEO Ann Mukherjee—as well as premixed cocktails. The RTD entry began in March with Jameson Ginger & Lime, a 6% abv cocktail made using the flagship Irish whiskey, lime and ginger flavoring, and sparkling water and carrying an SRP of $15 a four-pack of 12-ounce cans. “The success of these launches has proven that fans are more open than ever to expanding their whiskey occasions and options, in terms of both where they consume Irish whiskey, and how,” says Bajaria.

Single pot still Irish whiskey Redbreast is also an increasingly important part of Pernod’s portfolio, averaging 17% growth annually over the past half-decade to join the ranks of the top five Irish whiskey brands by volume in the U.S. Pernod is extending Redbreast with a new American Oak series, beginning with a Kentucky Oak edition retailing at $96 a bottle. Pernod also recently announced Gold Spot, a new addition to the Spot line debuting in the U.S. this month. Gold Spot matured for at least nine years in a combination of Bourbon, Sherry, Bordeaux wine, and Port casks and was bottled at 51.4% abv.

“From what we’re seeing, Redbreast is driving a lot of appeal with those who are looking to elevate their whiskey experience, whether they’re typically Scotch, single malt, or American whiskey drinkers or existing Irish whiskey drinkers,” Bajaria notes, adding that the Spot range and Midleton Very Rare are also being embraced at Irish whiskey’s top end.

Pernod’s Midleton Distillery, home of Irish Distillers and producer of Jameson, Redbreast, the Spot family, and others, plans to invest €50 million ($52m) over the next four years to become a carbon-neutral operation by the end of 2026. The facility produces more than 70 million liters of pure alcohol a year.—Daniel Marsteller

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