The vodka category is witnessing a revival as producers take cues from gin and tap into the trend for authenticity. We present the brands to watch in 2020.
The words ‘flavoured’ and ‘vodka’ were once inseparable, a happy marriage that saw the category peak in consumer popularity. Now, the two are more akin to a messy divorce, repelling one another as the category endeavours to re‐establish its somewhat tarnished reputation.
But as brands begin to rebuild the spirit’s relationship with consumers – and bartenders – in 2019 it has become clear they are taking a fresh approach to flavour. No more sugary, confected iterations – flavour, now, stems from more natural sources, and has also been taking cues from gin.
Take for example Amber Beverage Group’s Moskovskaya Vodka, which this year launched a pink variation in Spain, hot on the heels of the pink gin phenomenon. In 2020, the brand will roll out its pink vodka to Italy, Portugal, the UK, the US and the Baltics. Things are also looking promising for its flagship product, Moskovskaya Osobaya, which experienced “yet another double‐digit growth” year in 2019.
Pepijn Janssens, CMO at Amber Beverage Group, says: “We see some major global vodka players slowing down their brand investment in Europe, allowing regional players to take some of their market share in a flat or slightly declining category.”
Canada has also created greater opportunities for vodka during this past year, as new regulations came into effect in June. The changes mean Canadian distillers can now use any agricultural product, in addition to potatoes and cereal grains, to make vodka.
However, overall worldwide sales by volume look set to struggle for another year. According to Euromonitor figures, global vodka sales are forecast to decline from 322.2m cases in 2018 to 321.3m cases in 2019. A marginal increase is expected next year, to 321.7m cases.
On the flip side, though, sales have been rising by value year on year – and are expected to show a similar pattern for 2019. In 2018, worldwide vodka sales climbed to US$17.7bn. Forecast figures for 2019 show this figure looks set to grow further, to US$19.6bn – a clear indicator that while consumers may be drinking less vodka, they are drinking more premium brands – great news for a product like Bacardi’s Grey Goose.
“Millennials and Gen Z already account for 30% of global luxury sales and they’re on pace to hit 45% by 2025, according to consulting firm Bain & Company,” says Martin de Dreuille, Grey Goose vice president. “With this target audience on the rise for the luxury sector, we needed to ensure Grey Goose felt relevant and relatable for them. In response to this, in April we launched our new brand platform, Live Victoriously.”
For Żubrówka owner Roust, vodka looks set to continue benefiting from its more refined, elegant flavour approach in 2020. “We’re increasingly seeing that consumers are looking for drinks with authenticity,” says Ed Titheridge, UK head of commercial at Roust. “Our Żubrówka brand offers retailers an authentic flavoured vodka.”
Click through the following to see which brands we believe are ones to watch in the year ahead.
Tito’s Handmade Vodka
This Texas‐based vodka brand has its foot firmly on the gas when it comes to global expansion, and launched everywhere from Poland to Mongolia in 2019.
Tito’s seemingly unstoppable growth includes global travel retail and as the brand soars in the US, other big players have simultaneously struggled.
In 2020, it’s worth paying attention to whether Tito’s will continue to steal market share from big players – particularly in the travel retail channel.
With its Live Victoriously platform now live, the Grey Goose ‘brand reset’ promised by former chief marketing officer Lee Applbaum is now well under way.
The aim is to improve Grey Goose’s “emotional connectivity” with consumers, and is part of a 10‐year marketing plan. It will be interesting to see what comes in 2020 under a new CMO.
The Pernod Ricard‐owned vodka brand took sustainability to new heights in 2019, partnering with The Paper Bottle Company to design a fully bio‐based and recyclable paper bottle.
Both companies, along with other conglomerates, are now researching the possibility of creating a commercially available paper bottle.
With consumers scrutinising brands’ green credentials more than ever before, Absolut seems to be at the forefront when it comes to creative alternatives. Will paper bottles be the next sustainable trend?