The vodka brands to watch in 2018By Amy Hopkins
Vodka has struggled to prove that it isn’t a category left in the doldrums, but a number of brands are adding zest to the sector, and garnering consumer interest in the process.
As consumers gravitate towards heritage spirits that are full of flavour and often locally made, vodka has undoubtedly struggled to slot in with contemporary trends.
However, the category still resonates with millions of consumers around the world. Global market intelligence publisher Euromonitor predicts that the category’s volumes will increase by eight million litres to 3.069 billion litres in 2017.
Speaking to SB this year, Jeremy Cunnington, senior alcoholic drinks analyst at Euromonitor, noted the importance of new markets for vodka.
He said: “Despite the long-term decline of its largest market, Russia, vodka has shown itself to be a key growth driver for international distillers. The flavourless liquid has proved very popular globally, thanks to its mixability, and has meant dynamic growth in both mature and emerging markets.
“However, despite large volume growth expected in these markets, many of these traditional growth regions are problematic for international distillers. Producers need new markets.”
Per Jacobsson, CEO and director of global sales at DQ Vodka, says his brand will soon launch in the US, Canada, China, India, South Africa and the Middle East. “Our challenge is to fight with brands like Belvedere and Beluga, as they have huge promo on budgets,” he says.
Ladoga, creator of Tsarskaya/Imperial Vodka – which reached the 1m case sales mark last year after growing annual volumes by an astonishing 51% – is hoping to achieve a 20% export sales increase in 2017, and a minimum 1012% increase in its domestic Russian market.
In 2018/19, the company is planning expansion to the Middle East and Africa. However, Veniamin Grabar, president of Ladoga, is concerned about deep discounting in vodka, which he says has become a “global problem”.
He adds: “Now, nine purchases out of 10 in the mass segment are exclusively made with the deepest discounts. In reality, such pricing is loss-making for the en re distribution network.”
According to a recent report from UK drinks supplier Bibendum, vodka is predicted to make a comeback in the country’s ontrade next year as consumers move away from both cheap and expensive labels, but settle on ‘craft’ brands.
“[Vodka is] riding the craft wave, with some great craft vodkas coming onto the market and filling the gap between cheap, entrylevel alcohol and super expensive ‘bling’ brands – none of which premium bars want to use,” says Christina Schneider, Bibendum channel development manager.
In the US – the world’s largest vodka market – value exports of American-made vodka were up by 51.4% in the first half of 2017, hitting US$33.6m.
Click through the following pages to see which brands we believe are ones to watch in the year ahead.
Texas-made Deep Eddy Vodka recorded outstanding year-on-year volume growth in 2016, when a 41.8% uplift nudged the brand over 1m case sales. The brand is continuing to target aggressive growth, particularly as plans for its second distillery build get under way.
Stolichnaya undertook a host of exciting activity in 2017, including: sponsoring high-action spy flick Atomic Blonde; launching line extension Stoli Crushed, made with real fruit; unveiling its first TV ad in seven years; and creating a new recipe and bottle design for Stoli Gold. Next year will be the brand’s 80th anniversary – expect more big things.
Famed for its presence in the mainstream wine category, Echo Falls made its foray into vodka with the launch of its Fruit Fusions range last month. Initially launched in the UK with a £5m (US$6.6m) investment package, the brand will be advertised “in a large-scale way”. Will it make as much of a splash in the spirits world as in the wine arena? It remains to be seen.