Vodka brands to watch in 2022
Last year was a challenging one for the spirits industry, with venues closed and consumers living under lockdowns. But 2021 has shown the resilience of the sector. Here, we kick-start our list of brands to watch in 2022 by taking a look at vodka.
*This feature was originally published in the December 2021 issue of The Spirits Business magazine.
“Vodka has been on the decline, or static, for a number of years now,” notes Spiros Malandrakis, head of alcohol research at Euromonitor International.
The Brand Champions 2021 report showed mainstream million-case-selling vodka brands were the ones that struggled to grow sales, but those focusing on Eastern European regions excelled.
Smirnoff, for example, experienced a 10.1% volume decline in 2020. Pernod Ricard-owned Absolut had an even tougher year, with volumes down by 14.1% – and Bacardi-owned Grey Goose reported a 17.9% fall.
In contrast, Ukrainian vodka brand Nemiroff saw sales leap by 18.3%, Global Spirits-owned Morosha experienced a 13.5% surge in volume sales, while stablemate Khortytsa increased volumes by 6% and Roust-owned Żubrówka also grew by a solid 6%.
In the past year, it’s become plain to see that vodka has been taking cues from gin, which has been on a continued upward trajectory for some time. ‘Botanical vodkas’ have been flooding the market, and vodka producers have also been combining this with another leading trend: low-ABV.
In February this year, Bacardi targeted mindful drinkers with Grey Goose Essences, a range of three 30% ABV expressions infused with fruit and botanicals.
Brown-Forman’s Finlandia followed suit, and launched Finlandia Botanical in August – also a 30% ABV range infused with botanicals and fruit. Pekka Pellinen, Finlandia’s global master mixologist, said at the time: “Finlandia Botanical combines the versatility and mixability of vodka with the craftsmanship of botanical infusions in a way previously only associated with gin.”
For Malandrakis, vodka could be at a turning point with its new approach to flavour and appeal to those looking to drink ‘less, but better’.
He says: “It might be reaching the bottom of this cycle of consumption, and it can have the opportunity to start growing once again to offer luxury offerings for people who can afford it, and also trading-down options for people who cannot. It should embrace this polarisation.”
With the challenges of the pandemic set to continue, he believes the vodka category will be well-placed to navigate evolving consumer behaviours and spending habits.
“Vodka has the advantage of being extremely flexible as a drink, versatile and positioned in almost all significant price points,” Malandrakis adds. “It has the flexibility to navigate the choppy waters of the next couple of years. Will it achieve it? That remains to be seen.”
Scroll down to discover our pick of vodka brands to watch in 2022.
In November, Roust agreed to sell nine Polish vodka brands, including Żubrówka. They were snapped up by Maspex in a deal valued at almost US$1 billion. Since the acquisition, Żubrówka, which was the third-biggest-selling million-case vodka in The Brand Champions 2021 report, has released Żubrówka Rosé. This is the first line extension from the brand in some time. It will be interesting to see what other innovations could come in 2022.
The past 12 months have been active ones for Moët Hennessy’s Belvedere Vodka. In the past year, the brand has released a range of ready-to-drink vodka sodas, its first certified-organic flavoured vodka range, called Belvedere Organic Infusions, and a malted rye spirit drink, Belvedere Heritage 176 (pictured above). The Polish brand also opened a biomass facility to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2022.
Company mergers can signal big changes for brands. This year, Nordic drinks companies Altia (owner of Koskenkorva Vodka) and Arcus (owner of Linie aquavit) completed their merger to become Anora Group. With the creation of Anora Group, the company’s aim is to pursue growth opportunities in and outside of the Nordics region. Therefore, we could see an extra push to grow Koskenkorva’s global footprint next year.