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Tequila Brand Champion 2018: Don Julio

Don Julio hit the million-case mark for the first time last year

There’s no denying Tequila is one of the hottest commodities in the spirits world right now. Smashing through the million­-case mark for the first time is Diageo’s Don Julio, the 2018 Tequila Brand Champion. The brand had been on the cusp of surpassing 1m cases for the past two years, but increased its sales by 44.4% in 2017 to reach 1.3m cases – three times more than its 2014 volume.

Diageo brought Don Julio into its portfolio in 2015 and at the same time pledged to invest US$400m to expand its production facilities and agave farming capacity in Mexico. Diageo broke ground on the expansion work at its Atotonilco production site in Jalisco, Mexico, in May last year. But with George Clooney’s Casamigos Tequila now sitting beside Don Julio in Diageo’s Reserve portfolio in Europe, it will be interesting to see how the two brands are positioned in the coming year to avoid cannibalisation.

Also making its Brand Champions debut this year is Beam Suntory’s Hornitos Tequila, which grew by 8.6% to sell 1.1m cases (the brand sold 977,800 cases in 2016, but the table below rounds up the figure). Hornitos proved its innovative credentials in 2017 with the launch of a clear añejo Tequila – Cristalino – which claimed to be a “category first”.

Hornitos also launched an online campaign, called A Shot Worth Taking, featuring “real­-life shot­-takers”. Its aim was to encourage fans to take risks to achieve their ambitions. At the time, Malini Patel, vice-president of Tequilas and innovation at Beam Suntory, said: “Hornitos was founded on the principle that nothing great ever happens without taking a risk, and we wanted to develop a campaign that’s rooted in this mindset.” Such marketing endeavours seem to be paying off.

But in the coming year, eyes will surely be fixed on ultra­-premium Tequila Patrón, following its acquisition by Bacardi. The deal valued the brand’s parent company, Patrón Spirits International, at US$5.1bn, and has reportedly bumped Bacardi up to the position of second­-largest spirits company by value market share in the US, and the number-­one super­-premium spirits producer in the country.

Bacardi had owned a 30% stake in Patrón since 2008, but little has been said about its plans for the brand since the deal closed in April this year. However, Edward Brown, Patrón Spirits’ president and CEO, said at the time: “With Bacardi and its global presence, there is vast potential to grow the Patrón brand outside the United States, which is particularly exciting.” Will Patrón be able to match, or better, its 5.1% growth last year under new leadership? We’ll have to wait to find out.

*The Brand Champions data is listed to one decimal place for ease of reading, but the percentage changes are based on the full data supplied. All brand data is supplied in millions of nine-­litre cases.

Tequila (figures: million 9l case sales)

BRAND OWNER 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 %+/-­
Jose Cuervo Becle N/A N/A N/A 8.9 9.5 6.4%
Sauza Beam Suntory 2.8 2.9 2.9 2.8 2.8 0.3%
Patrón Patrón Spirits International 2.1 2.2 2.2 2.5 2.6 5.1%
Don Julio Diageo N/A 0.4 0.9 0.9 1.3 44.4%
El Jimador Brown-­Forman 1.2 1.1 1.1 1.2 1.2 6.6%
Hornitos Beam Suntory 0.6 0.7 0.8 1.0 1.1 8.6%

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