How long will the flavoured vodka craze last?

12th June, 2013 by Andrew Catchpole

The endlessly innovative craze for new vodka flavours still has legs, as Andrew Catchpole discovers.

Flavoured Vodka

Vodka is now available in hundreds of different flavours, from Whipped Cream to Bacon

If Willy Wonka had liked a snifter, then the world of flavoured vodkas would have satisfied his wildest dreams. Obviously the vodka belt nations of Eastern Europe have a long tradition of steeping pepper, ginger, bison grass, vanilla, lemon, cherry and other fruits, roots and spices, in their favourite tipple. But the modern range of flavours now available on a commercial scale almost defies imagination.

The more ‘mainstream’ fruit and spice-infused vodkas remain the most popular (and biggest selling) variants. However, the category has witnessed an explosion of more esoteric offerings, such as coconut, cotton candy, black truffle, cupcake, bubble gum, green tea, marshmallow and even wild hemp seed joining the party. If vodka distilled solely from aromatic Viognier grapes and infused with Kaffir Lime floats your boat, then rest assured – it’s already on the market.

It’s a fascinating category, and one that has tripled in volume globally over the last decade (all figures IWSR). Moreover, while flavoured vodkas have grown to 4% of global vodka sales by volume, they have captured 8% of the value of this multi-billion dollar market. So far these sales have been biased towards the US, followed by other (predominantly) Anglophone territories.

“The reason why flavoured vodka represents much more value than volume is because they are more skewed towards high unit value markets such as the US,” says Maggie Peak, global spokesperson for Brown Forman’s vodka portfolio, which includes premium flavours like the natural fruit essence-infused Finlandia Frost range. “The US has been a key driver in terms of sweeter and novelty flavours and recent trends in the US show flavoured vodka growing four times faster than classic.”

The boom of so-called ‘candy’ vodkas in the States – those inspired by sweet, dessert-leaning flavours – has been fuelled by big players like Diageo whose Smirnoff has joined the fray with Fluffed Marshmallow and Whipped Cream. And, with the global vodka market performing sluggishly, the purveyors of flavoured variants have understandably continued to invest in this category.

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