Top eight best-selling liqueur brandsBy Nicola Carruthers
The liqueurs category is experiencing a renaissance, boosted by demand for lower-ABV serves and at-home cocktail making. We count down the million-case players leading the sector.
Liqueurs are no longer left to gather dust at the back of a drinks cabinet, as cocktail fans experiment with innovative flavours and health-conscious consumers swap out full-strength spirits for lower-ABV drinks.
The liqueurs sector saw a 7% volume rise to 121.2 million cases in 2021, up from 113.3m in 2020, according to Euromonitor.
In the UK, liqueur sales soared by 27% to more than 44m bottles sold in the year to 11 September 2021, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, which attributed this growth to the popularity of colourful liqueurs. By value, sales hit £561m (US$470m) in the UK.
Distell’s Amarula made a welcome return to the million-case ranks, while this year’s list saw the disappearance of orange-flavoured Cointreau after its parent company declined to provide 2021 figures.
It was a good year for the biggest-selling liqueur players with the majority of brands reporting increases, and four brands climbing by double digits.
Scroll below to discover the top eight best-selling liqueur brands, listed in order of their nine-litre case sales.
This list has been compiled as part of The Spirits Business‘s Brand Champions 2022 report, available to view here.
Data is listed to one decimal place for ease of reading, but the percentage changes are based on the full data supplied to The Brand Champions 2022.
% change: -12.2%
Place last year: 7
Fruit liqueur brand Choya reported the biggest decline among our million-sellers with a 12.2% drop to 1.1m cases. The brand now sits at its lowest volume sales in five years and could fall below the million-case mark this year.
% change: 28.9%
Place last year: N/A
Distell-owned Amarula liqueur returned to our best-selling list after falling below one million cases in 2020.
The brand witnessed the biggest rise among million-case liqueurs with a 28.9% increase to 1.2m cases. The move marked a return to growth after two consecutive years of declines.
In November last year, brewing giant Heineken agreed to buy a 65% stake in Distell for €2.2 billion (US$2.5bn), excluding the Scotch whisky business.
With Heineken’s takeover, the cream liqueur brand could benefit from the brewing giant’s global footprint and distribution muscle, boosting it outside of its core South African market.
% change: 10.6%
Place last year: 6
Pernod Ricard-owned coffee liqueur Kahlúa reported a double-digit increase last year after four years of declines. The brand reached 1.8m cases, its highest volume sales to date.
Kahlúa benefitted from a strong performance in Pernod Ricard’s 2021 fiscal year, up by 12% in volume versus the previous year. The brand is said to be outperforming the liqueurs category with double-digit growth in its key markets: the US (+18%), Canada (+19%), Australia (+17%), and the UK (+42%).
Last November, the brand revealed a new global campaign to encourage consumers to bring more spontaneity to everyday moments.
The multi-channel Stir Up Your Routine campaign is being rolled out in key global markets throughout 2022, and could help the brand continue to grow its sales.
% change: -0.6%
Place last year: 4
Stock Spirits’ Lubelska brand saw a minor dip in 2021, falling to 1.8m cases after two years of stagnant sales. The drop meant the brand has slipped one place to take the fifth spot on our list.
According to Stock Spirits, the decline was driven by a ‘small-format tax impact on consumer demand’ and ‘reduced on-the-go out-of-home impulse consumption of small formats’. The company noted that smaller formats are a significant part of Lubelska’s sales in Poland.
4. Żołądkowa Gorzka
% change: 5.6%
Place last year: 5
Żołądkowa Gorzka swapped places with its stablemate Lubelska on our best-selling list after recording a modest 5.6% increase to 1.9m cases.
The brand, now in its fourth year of consecutive growth, could surpass two million cases for the first time this year.
The Stock Spirits-owned liqueur said the growth comes after an earlier packaging relaunch and price repositioning to ‘compete more effectively with mainstream competitors’.
3. De Kuyper
% change: 4.8%
Place last year: 3
Dutch drinks firm De Kuyper’s namesake liqueur brand returned to its pre-pandemic volume of 3.5m cases after rising by 4.8% last year.
The brand has reported stagnant sales for a number of years, while 2020 saw De Kuyper fail to hold onto sales during the pandemic-hit period.
The last quarter of 2021 saw the brand tap into the low-and-no trend with the release of a zero-ABV pre-mixed cocktail range.
Meanwhile, De Kuyper’s on-trade sales could benefit from the launch of a new bottled cocktail line this year.
% change: 11.1%
Place last year: 2
This year’s Liqueurs Brand Champion, Malibu, rose by 11.1% to 4.9m cases in 2021, adding 1m cases since the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
Malibu has seen “strong growth” in markets such as the UK, Germany, Australia and South Korea.
According to a brand spokesperson, Malibu brought its long-term “summer strategy to life in new and engaging ways” by tapping into consumer trends with new products such as Malibu Watermelon and Malibu Strawberry.
In October 2021, Malibu entered the ready-to-drink (RTD) sector with a canned range of rum-based cocktails.
% change: 23.2%
Place last year: 1
The world’s biggest-selling liqueur brand, Diageo-owned Baileys, soared by 23.2% to reach 8.8m cases in 2021.
The cream liqueur witnessed a strong performance in the first half of 2021, according to Diageo’s 2021 fiscal year financial results. Sales were driven by the flagship expression, the ‘successful’ launches of Baileys Deliciously Light and Baileys Apple Pie, and the continued focus on the brand’s ‘positioning as a year-round indulgent treat’.
The brand’s sales in the second half of the year were led by Europe, and Latin America and Caribbean.