Top 10 best-selling vodka brandsBy Amy Hopkins
Challenges in Eastern Europe mean that our list of the world’s best-selling vodka brands has lost a number of prominent Russian names, allowing some lucky international players to grab the spotlight.
Both Russian president Vladimir Putin’s much reported minimum pricing regime and Polish duty hikes have knocked sales of some of the world’s most prominent regional vodka brands, which historically shifted hulking masses of affordable spirits.
While international brands avoided the same pace of decline, many witnessed single digit declines, struggling against both the boom in American whiskey and increasing pricing pressure in the key US market.
However, not all was doom and gloom for the category in 2014. Diageo’s Circo Vodka, while not mentioned on this list due to its relatively small volumes, managed to soar ahead with 18% growth in 2014, while Russian vodka brand Zytniowka enetered the million case-selling elite for the first time with a 58% leap in volume sales.
The world’s largest vodka brand took another sales hit in the year, but remains head and shoulders above the competition in terms of its ability to dominate the international market.
Following our recently published Brand Champions 2015 – our pick of those brands selling over one million cases annually that are performing exceptionally within their category – we run through which are the world’s best-selling vodka brands on the market today.
Click through the following pages to discover the top 10 best-selling vodka brands, listed in order of their nine-litre case sales.
% change: +1%
Place last year: no place
Gruppo Campari’s Skyy Vodka just missed a place in our top 10 best-selling vodka brands last year due to the dominance of Russian brands. However, as many of them slip off of the list, Skyy confidently steps in with a small, yet significant, 1% sales boost in 2014. While quirky vodka flavours are rapidly declining in key markets due to the much-reported “flavour fatigue” among consumers, Skyy has managed to buck the trend with its classic, on-trend fruit flavours and core expression.
9. Minsk Kristall
% change: -20%
Place last year: 6
Minsk Kristall is another Russian casualty of the Russian minimum pricing policy, losing a massive one million cases – 20% – of its volumes in 2014. Dropping from 6th to 9th place on this countdown, the brand experienced its lowest volume sales in at least five years, despite extending its distribution to the more promising US market last year.
8. Grey Goose
% change: +3%
Place last year: no place
Another international vodka brand which has made its way onto the best-selling vodka list for the first time it Bacardi’s Grey Goose, which recorded solid single digit growth of 3% in 2014. The brand appeals to an emerging class of discerning consumer who looks for heritage and provenance in their drinks, launching its Fly Beyond campaign at the end of 2013 to communicate its history and production. The brand also continued to play in the flavoured segment with the launch of Le Melon, and also signed a number of sponsorship deals.
% change: +5%
Place last year: 10
One of the success stories in the vodka category last year was Constellations Brands’ Svedka Vodka, which has leaped from 10th place to 7th in just 12 months. Posting 5% growth, the brand has moved back to more traditional flavours with the launch of Svedka Peach and also entered the higher proof spirits category, staying on top of consumer trends.
6. Green Mark
% change: -27%
Place last year: 4
One of the biggest volume declines in the vodka category last year came from Green Mark, owned by Roust (formerly Russian Standard), which nose-dived a massive 27% in the year. Otherwise known as Zelyenay Marka, the brand is one of the largest in Russia but has failed to match its 2009 sales of more than 11 million cases as volumes continue to drop sharply. It seems unlikely the brand will reach such success again in the coming years as President’s Putin’s tax and minimum pricing regime continues.
% change: -22%
Place last year: 5
Another beleaguered Russian vodka brand is Belenkaya, owned by Synergy. After peaking at 7.3m case sales in 2012, the brand has borne the brunt of Russian headwinds in recent years, and has drifted further and further away from its once-held top three best-selling vodka position.
% change: +18%
Place last year: 9
One of the most optimistic stories in vodka over recent has been that of Zubrowka, which has recently been named Vodka Brand Champion for the second year running by The Spirits Business for once again defying its competition and challenging environment to report soaring growth. Acquired by Roust in 2013, the brand has thrived under its new parent company’s extensive distribution network, reporting a staggering 18% growth last year alone. As SB said in our Brand Champions 2015 feature: “But it’s been Zubrowka’s bison grass USP, contemporary branding and premium positioning that, combined, have aided the traditional Polish brand in appealing to an international audience.”
3. Pyat Ozer
% change: -14%
Place last year: 3
Clinging on to its position as the world’s third largest vodka brand is Pyat Ozer, owned by Alcohol Siberia Group. The world’s largest domestic Russian vodka brand reached case sales of 7m in 2012, but has since witnessed dramatic declines, plummeting 14% in 2014. Its tale of woe is indicative of the domestic Russian vodka category’s struggles in its home market.
% change: -3%
Place last year: 3
Maintaining its position as the world’s second best-selling vodka brand is Pernod Ricard’s Absolut Vodka. Shedding 3% of its volume sales last year, the Swedish brand has avoided some of the more dramatic losses experienced by its Russian brothers, but has nevertheless struggled with the overall stagnation in the market. It in end of year financial results, parent company Pernod Ricard said it had “slowdown” in Eastern Europe as well as economic frustrations in Russia. Absolut in particular, suffered similar price challenges in the US as other international super-premium vodka brands.
% change: -2%
Place last year: 1
Diageo’s vodka giant Smirnoff may have just been overtaken by Indian whisky brand Officer’s Choice as the world’s best-selling international spirit brand, but it remains the world’s largest vodka brand by a clear mile. Diageo’s CEO Ivan Menezes admitted that Smirnoff’s pricing in its key US market “too high” as a mid-range brand. The group had “substantially” expanded margins on its mid-priced brands in North America over the last three years in a company-wide effort to premiumise its portfolio, yet this resulted in a loss of market share for Smirnoff in a highly competitive arena. The brand recently unveiled a a new more premium image for its classic Red variant – it remains to be seen whether this will justify any future price hikes in the year to come.