Top 10 biggest-selling vodka brandsBy Melita Kiely
Vodka has been revitalised in recent years as producers have focused on high-quality, classic expressions and sophisticated flavours. But how did the world’s biggest-selling brands perform in 2021?
This year’s compilation of the world’s biggest-selling vodka brands looks a little different to previous years. As a result of the Russian war in Ukraine, the decision was taken to omit Russian brands from this year’s Brand Champions report in support of Ukraine.
Nevertheless, there are myriad high-performers in this year’s list. Overall, the million-case segment of the vodka category performed remarkably well in 2021, with just a handful of brands experiencing volume declines.
Many were able to match, or surpass their pre-pandemic volumes after a stellar year of recovery. Most notably, sales of this year’s Vodka Brand Champion, Cîroc, soared in 2021 following several years of decline.
Below, we count down the top 10 biggest-selling vodka brands of 2021.
10. Ketel One
% change: 23.0%
Place last year: N/A
New to this year’s top 10 list is Diageo-owned Ketel One. The brand had an incredibly strong 2021, growing by 23.0% in volume to hit 3.4m cases.
The brand has been quick to react to a number of leading drinks trends in recent years – and its efforts are evidently paying off. From the lower-ABV Ketel One Botanical range, to the trio of canned ready-to-drink Spritz products launched in 2020, new product development is resonating well with consumers – as demonstrated in Ketel One’s 2021 volume sales.
9. Magic Moments
% change: 4.0%
Place last year: N/A
Magic Moments, owned by Radico Khaitan, was able to return to growth in 2021 – but not quite enough to reach its pre-Covid-19 levels. Year on year, the brand had been on an upward trajectory until the pandemic hit in 2020, topping 4.2m cases in 2019.
However, it’s encouraging to see that sales are rebounding after a challenging couple of years. It will be worth watching how the brand continues to perform in 2022 to see if growth can be sustained.
8. Grey Goose
% change: 34.1%
Place last year: N/A
Bacardi’s Grey Goose really upped the ante in 2021 and grew sales by more than a third compared with its 2020 volume. After pretty stagnant sales in the years prior, the 2021 surge saw the brand significantly overtake its 3.6m cases in 2019 to reach 3.9m last year.
Grey Goose launched a number of campaigns in 2021, which surely helped the brand’s success. In April last year, Grey Goose kicked off a new campaign for its lower-ABV Essences range during the Oscars pre-show – the brand’s biggest marketing investment since it launched.
In the summer, a nature-themed campaign celebrated the brand’s relationship with the natural world, while the Martini became the focus of a new campaign in November, soon followed by a partnership with the Grammys, boosting the brand’s presence further.
% change: 7.7%
Place last year: 8
Soplica is under new ownership after former owner, Roust, sold the brand along with nine other Polish brands, in November 2021. The deal was valued at almost US$1 billion.
Now owned by the Central European Distribution Corporation International, Soplica has been on a solid growth trajectory for the last five years. Even the impact of Covid-19 in 2020 was unable to thwart sales, and the brand rose from 4.2m cases in 2019 to 4.3m in 2020.
Last year, Soplica improved again, delivering 7.7% sales growth to reach 4.6m cases. With a new parent company at the helm, it will be interesting to see how the Polish vodka brand performs in the coming year.
% change: 11.5%
Place last year: 6
Ukrainian vodka brand Nemiroff secured the Vodka Brand Champion title in 2021 – and went on to have a very strong 12 months in 2021.
The brand delivered 11.5% growth, increasing its volume from 5.1m cases in 2020 to 5.6m in 2021.
Unfortunately, 2022 has been challenging for the brand with the ongoing war in Ukraine, which forced the distillery to pause production. Nevertheless, the brand has been determined to continue building its global presence where possible, and launched in The Bahamas in April this year. With continued marketing initiatives, such as its partnership with Gloucester Rugby, the brand has every chance to offset the challenges of the war and deliver another strong performance in 2022.
% change: 11.9%
Place last year: 5
What an incredible five years it has been for Morosha. In 2017, the brand was selling 3.8m cases annually. Fast forward to 2021, and the brand has more than doubled its case sales to shift 7.9m in 2021.
When Morosha was crowned Vodka Brand Champion in 2020, the brand discussed plans to introduce new products, and to continue growing the brand through “natural development”, following five new SKUs for international markets. In addition, Poland was noted as a key focus for the brand.
% change: 8.2%
Place last year: 3
Żubrówka was another brand that was part of Roust’s US$1bn sale of its Polish vodka subsidiary, the Central European Distribution Corporation International. The bison grass-infused vodka has been steadily growing year after year since 2017, even through the pandemic. This culminated in an 8.2% uptick in volume sales last year, when Żubrówka reached 10.8m cases.
In November last year, Żubrówka added to the ongoing trend for pink spirits with its own colourful iteration: Żubrówka Rosé. The new addition could well be the brand’s ticket to another year of solid growth in 2022.
% change: 5%
Place last year: 2
Moving down one spot on the top 10 biggest-selling vodka list is Ukrainian vodka Khortytsa. The Global Spirits-owned brand has been growing year on year since 2017 – and is just shy of 11m cases.
Thanks to a 5% volume surge, the brand reached 10.9m cases in 2021. However, 2022 could paint a different picture for the brand given the Russia-Ukraine war. Only time will tell what impact the conflict will have on the Ukrainian vodka brand.
% change: 22.3%
Place last year: 4
Pernod Ricard-owned Absolut has jumped to the position of the world’s second biggest-selling vodka brand. After a serious slip in sales in 2020 because of the pandemic, Absolut clawed back sales by an impressive 22.3% to surpass its 2019 volume. Case sales for the brand in 2021 hit 11.7m nine-litre cases.
Absolut had a very active 2021. Packaging has been an important consideration for the brand over the last year, and in September 2021, Absolut unveiled its biggest redesign since it launched in 1979. Further Absolut activity in 2021 included a limited edition bottle in partnership with Tomorrowland festival. Such partnerships and creative enhancements are clearly paying off for the brand.
% change: 15.2%
Place last year: 1
Retaining the top spot as the world’s biggest-selling vodka brand is Smirnoff. Despite a dip of more than two million cases in 2020, the Diageo-owned brand returned to full strength in 2021 to report its best year to date.
After a 15.2% jump in sales, Smirnoff sold 26.5m cases in 2021. Hard seltzers are on fire right now, and the addition of a new flavour to Smirnoff’s hard seltzer range – Smirnoff Seltzer Mango & Passionfruit – could well have aided the brand’s 2021 success. Meanwhile, in May last year the brand targeted summer opportunities in the US with Smirnoff Pink Lemonade.
Smirnoff sits extremely comfortably ahead of all other vodka brands in terms of volume sales. If the brand can continue to build on its connections with consumers, there is no reason it can’t find even greater favour throughout 2022.