Adam Gold, brand manager – ABSOLUT Vodka for Pernod Ricard USA, says hybrid products will continue to drive growth in spirits sales.
What is driving sales in the sparkling wine and vodka categories?
Adam Gold: According to Nielsen, vodkas priced premium and above are experiencing healthy growth in both volume and value, which is being driven by consumers’ continued interest in product quality. It is also consistent with a larger trend of premiumization within the spirits category.
Domestic sparkling is also performing well, up about 3% in volume and 5% in value according to Nielsen. New Zealand wines are growing at a great pace (+18%), as is Sauvignon Blanc (+10%). With all of these categories growing, it is a great time to be rolling out ABSOLUT TUNE—a sparkling fusion of premium vodka and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc—nationally.
Why launch a wine and vodka hybrid?
ABSOLUT TUNE combines the glamour of the Champagne world and the energy of the vodka world. Bubbles have always been associated with celebration, but the vodka element injects energy and makes the product a bit more approachable and appropriate for casual occasions.
From a product standpoint, wine and vodka play extremely well together. The taste is crisp and fruit-forward—typical of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc—and the finish has a really clean vodka note.
Who are the target consumers and how do you plan to reach them?
Our typical consumer for ABSOLUT TUNE is a woman in her 20s or early 30s. She is trend conscious, highly social, digitally savvy and passionate about fashion, music and pop culture. She is also health conscious and happy to know that a glass of ABSOLUT TUNE has the same amount of calories as a “vodka soda”—and contains no added sugar.
One of the simplest ways we are reaching this consumer is through packaging. The pack features a sleek, white outer sleeve that “unzips” to reveal a beautiful black and gold bottle. The act of unzipping the bottle creates a ritual in the on premise, but also adds a “surprise and delight” at home.
To help drive awareness and amplify our messaging, we are collaborating with Icona Pop, a female indie-pop duo from Sweden. Icona Pop is the perfect partner not only because they are highly relevant to our target consumer and live at the intersection of music and fashion, but also because they embody duality—a key facet of the ABSOLUT TUNE product story.
Finally, we are investing heavily behind in-store sampling. With a hybrid product it is crucial to get liquid on lips to help shoppers understand the proposition. We have seen phenomenal conversion rates with our sampling to date. Consumers are curious about the product, and once they taste it, they are sold.
How do supermarkets fit into your strategy?
ABSOLUT TUNE is especially relevant for the affluent female shopper who enjoys planning social gatherings—making grocery a critical channel for our strategy. These stores tend to be female friendly in terms of cleanliness, lighting and merchandising. ABSOLUT TUNE is ideal for celebrations and grocery stores provide a one-stop shop for any kind of gathering, big or small.
Tell us about marketing and merchandising for this product and the category. Does it perform better during certain times of the year?
We know that more than a third of sparkling wine sales take place in the last eight weeks of the calendar year, so the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve is key. In the markets where we launched in 2012, we also saw spikes during a few of the other traditional sparkling holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. However, because ABSOLUT TUNE has vodka in its DNA, we’re seeing that it is a little less seasonal than Champagne. Consumers fundamentally understand it is not just for holidays or special occasions; it can be for a girls’ night in or just a weeknight get-together. The vodka aspect also makes it a versatile, all-season product.
What does the future look like for the category?
That is tough to answer since we are pioneering a new category. Given the health of premium vodka, domestic sparkling wine and Sauvignon Blanc, we see a bright future. We will see more hybrid products start to enter the landscape, especially as innovation becomes an even bigger growth driver in spirits. Pernod Ricard USA was a pioneer with Malibu Red, a rum and tequila hybrid, and we are continuing to drive excitement and create opportunities with ABSOLUT TUNE.