The world’s biggest-selling spiritsBy Nicola Carruthers
Major players rebounded from the pandemic to record impressive volume gains last year, but which spirits held onto their pole positions?
The spirits industry went into recovery mode in 2021, while continuing to navigate the challenges of the pandemic. For all the negative impacts Covid-19 has had on the trade, it has also created new consumer trends, including a boom in home cocktail making and the continued rise of ready-to-drink (RTD) products and agave spirits.
According to data from Euromonitor International, total spirits volume grew by 2.2% in 2021 compared with 2020.
The 10 biggest spirits brands in the world remained mostly the same from the previous year, but with one new entrant to the ranks.
Seven of the biggest players managed to record double-digit increases in 2021, bouncing back from a pandemic-affected year that saw the closure of the on-trade in most parts of the world. However, most brands failed to recoup their 2019 volumes.
Based on the data in our 2022 Brand Champions report, we’ve analysed the performances of the top-selling spirits and RTD products globally.
Read on to discover the top 10 best-selling spirits brands, listed in order of their nine-litre case sales.
% change: 14.5%
Place last year: N/A
This year’s Rum Brand Champion, Bacardí, entered the top 10 for the first time after soaring by 14.5% to surpass 20m cases for the first time. It marks the fifth year of growth for the brand.
The rum brand experienced an “outstanding year” in Mexico, according to Ned Duggan, global senior vice-president for Bacardí, and also registered considerable growth in Spain, Germany and the UK.
9. Royal Stag
% change: 20.8%
Place last year: 10
Pernod Ricard-owned Indian whisky Royal Stag climbed one place on our best-selling spirits list after recording a 20.8% increase – the biggest rise among the top 10.
The increase also saw the brand slightly surpass its pre-pandemic volume of 22m cases to reach its highest sales volume to date.
8. -196˚C Strong Zero
% change: -7.2%
Place last year: 4
Japanese RTD brand -196˚C Strong Zero took the biggest tumble among the million-case giants with a 7.2% drop to 23m cases in 2021, its lowest case sales in five years.
It was the second year the Suntory Spirits-owned brand declined.
Available in Japan, the range of Highball-style drinks gets its name from part of its production method – fruits are frozen at -196°C and crushed into a powder, which is used to make the liquid.
7. Officer’s Choice
% change: 11.5%
Place last year: 8
Indian whisky brand Officer’s Choice reported a double-digit increase to 23.2m cases in 2021, but it remained far below its pre-pandemic volume of 30.6m cases.
Officer’s Choice was once the world’s biggest Indian whisky at 34m cases in 2018, but its sales have slipped in recent years.
The brand’s owner, Allied Blenders & Distillers, is planning to increase market share of Officer’s Choice over the next year.
% change: -0.8%
Place last year: 5
Philippine brand Tanduay remains the world’s biggest rum brand at 23.7m cases.
The brand recorded a small drop of 0.8% last year, after it made an impressive gain in 2020.
The Philippine rum brand could be overtaken by Bacardí in the future if it continues to decline, with 1.7m cases between them.
5. Imperial Blue
% change: 13.4%
Place last year: 7
Pernod Ricard’s Imperial Blue brand achieved a 13.4% increase to 24.1m cases, however it failed to reach its pre-pandemic volume of 26.3m cases.
The second-biggest Indian whisky brand climbed two places on the top 10 list, but it faces competition from its nearest rival, Officer’s Choice, which is hot on its heels after recording double-digit growth.
% change: 15.2%
Place last year: 6
Diageo-owned Smirnoff has a particularly strong performance in 2021, up by 15.2% to 26.5m cases.
Despite a dip of more than two million cases in 2020, the world’s biggest vodka brand returned to full strength in 2021 to report its best year to date.
Last month, Diageo attributed its double-digit vodka sales growth during fiscal 2022 to a 300% upswing in cocktail consumption both at home and in the on-trade.
3. McDowell’s No.1 Whisky
% change: 17.2%
Place last year: 3
United Spirits-owned McDowell’s Indian whisky saw its sales soar past the 30-million-mark last year, with an impressive 17.2% increase. However, it remained below its 2019 sales high of 30.7m cases.
The brand will remain a part of the United Spirits portfolio following the mass sale of 32 of its brands to Inbrew Beverages, a move that will allow it to focus on its more premium line and could help McDowell’s reach new heights in the year ahead.
2. White Claw
% change: 11.1%
Place last year: 2
Last year’s Supreme Brand Champion, White Claw, reported an 11.1% rise to 65m cases. In 2020, the brand more than doubled its volumes.
The brand’s growth appears to have slowed as consumer demand for hard seltzers diminishes.
During the first two quarters of 2021, White Claw’s market share of the hard seltzer category in the US on-trade fell by 15.4%, data from alcohol inventory platform Backbar has revealed.
% change: 0.8%
Place last year: 1
Korean soju Jinro remains the world’s biggest spirit brand, with a modest 0.8% increase to 94.5m cases.
The brand has recorded five years of consecutive growth and is nearly 30m cases ahead of its nearest competitor, White Claw.
In comparison, fellow soju brand Chum Churum struggled to maintain its sales (down by 4.4% to 19m cases), resulting in it dropping out of the top 10 biggest-selling spirits list.
Jinro could become the first brand to hit 100m cases in the years to come.