Unusual Flavors Fuel Spirits Trends

Flavor innovation helped propel the spirits industry to hit a milestone in 2012 and is fostering continued growth in 2013, according to Technomic’s recently released 2013 Spirits TAB (Trends in Adult Beverage) Report.

“Many of the trends that drove the spirits market in 2011 continued in 2012, such as premiumization and consumer interest in exploring different categories,” observes Donna Hood Crecca, Senior Director at Technomic, “but the real driver was product innovation, particularly around flavor. Spirits suppliers came to market with compelling products featuring interesting and sometimes unexpected flavor profiles. Consumers were intrigued, especially the all-important Millennial consumer group.”

Gravitating to the rich complexity of single malt Scotch to candy- and dessert-inspired flavored vodkas, as well as spicier selections offered in rum and cordials and liqueurs, consumers’ thirst for new flavor experiences continued unabated. Competition among suppliers to quench that thirst was fierce. The flavor fray in 2012 involved:

  • Dessert-flavored vodkas including segment leader Pinnacle Whipped continued to engage consumers. A new wave of multi-layered flavored vodkas gained attention, such as Absolut Cherrykran, Belvedere Lemon Tea, 360 Buttered Popcorn and Van Gogh PB&J. The flavored vodka segment posted a double-digit percent gain to account for 28 percent of total vodka volume.
  • Flavor innovation went beyond the vodka category, however, with both sweet and spicy flavored liqueur versions of American and Canadian whiskeys earning shelf space at retail, on back bars and on home bars. Whiskey specialty products accounted for 14 percent share of the leading cordial and liqueur flavor classifications. Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, a spicy Canadian whisky liqueur, ranked among the fastest-growing brands of the year.
  • Flavored rum, which includes spiced rums, outpaced total rum growth and accounted for slightly more than half of category volume. Captain Morgan was a leading brand, while labels including Sailor Jerry and Admiral Nelson struck a chord with Millennials and realized notable volume increases.
  • Some brands merged different spirits and beverages to deliver new flavor experiences, such as Malibu Red, which combines rum and tequila, and the late-year debut, Absolut Tune, which marries the vodka with sparkling sauvignon blanc. In on-premise locations such as bars and restaurants, bartenders married spirits categories and flavored spirits in new ways to yield innovative cocktails.

The flavor trends are continuing in 2013. “Included in the 120 new spirits products introduced in the first quarter of 2013, which we record through the New Product Tracker in our DRINK database, were 21 flavored vodkas, 23 cordials and liqueurs, seven flavored rums and six flavored whiskeys,” says Crecca, noting that suppliers are going well beyond traditional flavor profiles to attract consumers. “We’re seeing unexpected flavors, such as Pernod Ricard’s Mama Walker’s line of breakfast-inspired liqueurs, involving flavors like Maple Bacon and Blueberry Pancake. The dessert trend is continuing in vodka, with Smirnoff Sorbet Light in Mango Passionfruit and Raspberry Pomegranate launching, and Beam adding Rainbow Sherbert to the already extensive Pinnacle line-up. Spice is showing up in whiskeys and liqueurs, and exotic fruit and floral flavors are also still on trend.”

Technomic projects ongoing growth for flavored vodka, whiskey, tequila and rum, as well as expansion in cordials and liqueurs in 2013.

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