SB’s most read stories: January 2023
From acquisition news to scientific breakthroughs, we’ve looked back at the most read stories published in the first month of 2023.
Last month, The Spirits Business readership was keen to learn what celebrity-backed spirits consumers reach for the most, and which brands have been falling short when it comes to sustainability.
Furthermore, big news coming out of the Diageo offices also got people clicking, with the firm featuring three times in our list.
Keep reading to find out which other stories ranked in our top 10 most read in January.
10. Brown-Forman completes Diplomático deal
Diplomático was named one of SB‘s rum brands to watch in 2023, and it appears our readers are taking heed of that advice.
The acquisition of the Venezuelan brand by Brown-Forman was completed in early January, marking the firm’s first move into rum.
The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, however the transaction is known to also include an ageing, bottling and shipping production facility in Panama.
Destillers United Group will continue to produce the brand’s rum portfolio at the original distillery, based at the foot of the Andes mountains, which includes the Traditional line with its Reserva Exclusiva, and Selección de Familia bottlings; the Prestige range, which includes Single Vintage; and the limited edition Distillery Collection, which showcases the brand’s ‘unique’ distillation methods.
9. Diageo delivers strong H1 results
Eyes were on Diageo in January as it published its half-year financial results.
The firm revealed it had seen an organic net sales growth of 9.4% across all regions, which it credited to a ‘diversified footprint’ and the premiumisation trend.
Across just spirits, the company saw net sales grow by 10%, with 3% volume growth, and Scotch seeing a 19% upswing in sales. Meanwhile, Tequila benefitted from 28% net sales growth.
In a slightly surprising turn of events given the firm’s full-year 2022 results, vodka net sales declined by 2% overall, with Ketel One and Cîroc net sales plummeting by 11% and 34% respectively across North America.
8. Bangkok bar renamed following protest
The Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok conducted a total rebrand of its one of its bars after protesters deemed its name ‘highly inappropriate’.
Formerly named after the Hindu deity Hanuman, the Hunuman Bar and its signature Martini, the Hunumantini, were both rebranded to be known as the 1897 Lounge and the 1897tini respectively.
Rajan Zed, Hindu statesman and president of Universal Society of Hinduism, spearheaded the protest and thanked Kempinski Hotels for understanding the concerns of the Hindu community, which felt that such a nomenclature was insensitive.
Zed said that Lord Hanuman was highly revered in Hinduism and was meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines, and not for selling liquor.
7. Drizly reveals best-selling celebrity spirits
George Clooney’s Tequila brand, Casamigos, came out on top in Drizly’s best-selling celebrity-backed brands list in January, usurping Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s Teremana Tequila, and Kendall Jenner’s 818 Tequila.
The brand’s most expensive style, añejo, is the second best-selling añejo Tequila on Drizly after Diageo’s Don Julio 1942.
Tequila held a 19% share of the spirits category on Drizly in 2022, up from 18% in 2021, 15% in 2020 and 13% from 2019.
For the last two years, Ryan Reynolds-backed Aviation Gin has held a 9% share of the gin category on Drizly, however the Diageo-owned brand dropped one percentage point in share from 2020.
Furthermore, in Drizly’s 2022 Retail Report, 54% of retailers named ‘celebrity owned’ as a type of product they intentionally stock, with many citing star power as the special product attribute that matters most.
6. Spirits giants get poor sustainability ranking
In a time when sustainability is paramount, some of the industry’s biggest spirits brands were found wanting, as they positioned as the most poorly rated products for sustainability in The Good Shopping Guide’s ethical ranking of spirits brands.
LVMH-owned Hennessy and Belvedere were among the big names that fell short in the ranking of 36 brands. Ranked out of a score of 100, both luxury brands were awarded a score of 32, after receiving bottom ratings in the organic, animal welfare, vegetarian/vegan, political donations, and public record criticisms criteria. The two brands were also marked down in the public record criticisms-plus criteria, which includes companies with a high volume of criticisms.
Meanwhile, Nc’Nean whisky and Juniper Green gin topped the ranking with a score of 92.
5. Jason Momoa moves into vodka
Another month, another celebrity moves into this spirits game. In January, it was the turn of Game of Thrones actor Jason Momoa, who has created a new sustainable vodka, which will make its debut at wine and spirits show WSWA Access Live in Florida, US.
The new Meili Vodka (pronounced ‘may-lee’) has been seven years in the making. Momoa joined forces with Junk Food Clothing founder Blaine Halvorson to create the brand.
According to Meili’s website, the bottle is made from the first 100% recycled glass bottle on the market, and uses water sourced from natural springs in Montana. It is designed to be sipped neat.
4. Diageo to focus on premium acquisitions
Following the release of its half-year fiscal 2023 results, Diageo CEO Sir Ivan Menezes told The Spirits Business that the company would continue on its current acquisition spree with a focus on “high-quality brands at the premium end of the market that have a good runway for growth.”
Menezes confirmed future acquisitions would not be based on gaps in the company’s portfolio, but rather on “the quality of the brand”.
“You can expect us to keep [looking for premium, quality brands],” he said, while noting that finding brands that fit that criteria was “not easy”.
He also noted that the firm was not moving away from innovation in favour of acquisitions, despite Diageo not having released a million-case-selling brand that has not been acquired since 2003.
3. Diageo acquires Don Papa
Considered by our readers to be the biggest acquisition news of the month was Diageo’s purchase of Philippine rum brand Don Papa.
Agreeing to an initial purchase price of €260 million (US$281.5m), John Kennedy, president, Diageo Europe and India, said: “We are excited by the opportunity to bring Don Papa into the Diageo portfolio to complement our existing rums.
“This acquisition is in line with our strategy to acquire high-growth brands with attractive margins that support premiumisation, and enables us to participate in the fast-growing super-premium-plus segment.”
2. Scientists create new category of non-alcoholic ‘spirit’
SB‘s readers were intrigued to learn about the scientists that have created a new category of non-alcoholic ‘spirit’, designed to mimic the most desired effects of alcohol, including anxiety removal and relaxation.
Led by professor of neuropsychopharmacology David Nutt, Gaba Spirits was created to take consumers ‘beyond ethanol’. To achieve this, Nutt and his team developed a synthetic alternative to alcohol, known as alcarelle, which is ‘a single molecule’.
Furthermore, the company launched Sentia in 2021, a non-alcoholic botanical ‘spirit’ made with herbs known to work on the Gaba system, the fundamental neurotransmitter in the brain, which is known for producing a calming effect.
1. Tequila overtakes American whiskey
Taking the top spot in our most read articles of January is the news that Mexican spirit Tequila has surpassed American whiskey in value terms to become the second most valuable spirit category in the US.
Furthermore, IWSR Drinks Market Analysis said Tequila was set to overtake vodka in 2023 to be the biggest category by value.
Agave spirits contributed US$1.6 billion to the spirits industry in 2022, IWSR noted. This growth was responsible for 70% of the overall volume growth and 65% of overall value growth of total US spirits.
Further IWSR statistics showed total spirits volume sales in the US grew by 2% in 2022 – with strong demand for premium-plus products, as premium-and-above spirits sales rose by 13% in volume terms last year.
Last month, we rounded up the most read stories of 2022.