The vodka brands to watch in 2017

12th December, 2016 by Annie Hayes

As SB predicted this time last year, authenticity, provenance and heritage are vodka buzzwords, and they’re sitting tight for the foreseeable future.


We reveal our predictions for 2017

As a result, vodka has held up well, with global sales values forecast to increase by 0.24% between 2015 and 2016, driven by a focus on raw base materials and a fresh surge of bartender backing.

A key brand to benefit from this is vodka goliath Absolut. By cutting its flavoured portfolio, pushing super-premium Absolut Elyx in its key US market and increasing marketing spend, French drinks group Pernod Ricard put the brakes on the brand’s volume decline, with Brand Champions figures showing a 0.9% dip in 2015.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion this year, Gilles Bogaert, Pernod’s managing director, finance and operations, said stabilising Absolut “isn’t easy” but the firm is “on track” to deliver its objectives.

Rival vodka giant Smirnoff is doing better still – the brand turned a corner in 2015, reporting growth for the first time in three years with sales up 0.78% to 25.8 million cases. Within a wider plan to make the brand “accessible” and “part of consumers’ lives”, Smirnoff plans to seek “non- traditional occasions” it has not yet played a part in – the shot market, for example.

Crafty category

Big players aside, craft vodkas have also benefited from a rise in discerning consumers seeking legitimate brand stories and quality ingredients – and leading the charge is Tito’s Handmade Vodka. This year the brand’s growth accounted for a larger dollar sales increase than the next 10 largest vodkas combined, according to data from American market research company IRI.

“If you offer consumers a well-made product at a fair price that is completely diverse in its usage occasions and can connect with consumers on an emotional level, you can succeed,” said Peter Angus, VP sales, Tito’s Handmade Vodka. “When brands start to rely on a lower price to salvage volume it’s the beginning of the end for their consumer franchise, so building consumer value with these other elements will benefit all tiers in our great industry.”

Though this method of lifestyle-led premiumisation – through purity and transparency rather than a high price point and fancy packaging – is not exclusive to vodka, it is arguably the category that has benefited from it the most.

“The premiumisation of vodka has changed the category positively,” said Richard Söldner, CEO of Vodrock. “People are willing to pay a fair price for good products, and this shift enables new vodka brands to enter the highly competitive market.”

As vodka continues to adapt to health-driven, modern lifestyles, so the market will improve – though volume is predicted to drop by 0.61% between 2016/17, value is likely to rise by 0.75% in the same period. In the words of Tito’s’ Angus, vodka is ubiquitous – and there will always be a solid market for brands that meet consumer needs.

Click through the following pages to discover which brands and trends we have predicted will dominate the vodka sector in 2017.

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