There are some 150 spirits brands selling over one million cases worldwide, but only an elite few can be bestowed with the title of Brand Champion.
The annual Brand Champions report is an exclusive in-depth analysis of the spirits selling over one million nine-litre cases in the last calendar year, regardless of domestic, regional or international volume.
Our team of expert journalists have chosen to highlight a select number of brands that shine bright above the rest. This may be through outperforming their category and competition or effectively engaging consumers through new marketing initiatives – not simply based on volume growth alone.
Of the 10 Brand Champions chosen, just one has been named the Supreme winner for not only delivering robust growth but for the educational halo effect it has had on its entire category throughout 2014.
Looking solely at volume growth there’s been a shift of power among the top-selling spirits in 2014, and it’s bad news for Diageo’s flagship international labels we’re afraid. Not only did the drinks group witness Allied Blenders & Distillers’ Officer’s Choice surpass Johnnie Walker as the world’s best-selling whisky in 2013, but the brand has now knocked Smirnoff vodka off its perch as the world’s leading spirit brand. It’s certainly been a year of mixed fortunes, even for Diageo, as the figures laid out on the following pages attest.
Astute readers may notice some familiar faces are missing from this year’s report. For the first year in many, a noticeable number of companies have opted to keep their data private, and therefore have not been included.
We’d like to draw your attention to the accomplishments of one brand in particular, which as our 2015 Supreme Brand Champion, (see below) has mastered the concept of market domination.
SUPREME BRAND CHAMPION 2015: JACK DANIEL’S
There were many contenders this year for the Supreme Brand Champion award, an accolade that’s bestowed annually upon the brand we believe has performed the strongest and most admirably within their particular category.
We could have chosen Officer’s Choice for its newfound position at the top of the biggest-selling spirits chart after it blew Smirnoff out the water by adding an astonishing five million cases to its global volume in 2014. Equally The Glenlivet, which makes its inaugural debut on the Brand Champions list, is rapidly gaining on the leading single malt Scotch whisky, Glenfiddich, and fast becoming a beacon for the category.
But, as you’ll see, there could really be no other deserving winner than Jack Daniel’s.
On the face of it, the Tennessee whiskey brand grew by a modest 2% to 11.7 million cases, but JD’s achievement doesn’t lie solely in its year-on-year growth. In fact, its volume gain slowed from the 5% delivered in 2013. Mark McCallum, EVP, president Jack Daniel’s Brands, puts the difference down to “calculated price increases around the world” during the calendar year, which “in instances slowed the volume growth rates but overall increased the value growth”.
There’s no denying JD’s leadership of the American whiskey category, particularly in the US, but what of its global appeal? “An aspect of Jack Daniel’s that is particularly unique is its desirable attributes of authenticity, mixability and premiumisation,” says McCallum. “With consumers craving more and more knowledge about the origins and craftsmanship behind brands, while having different options on how and when to consume, Jack Daniel’s is well positioned to benefit from these trends.”
In a category that’s becoming more saturated by the week, JD has commanded solid consumer fidelity through its allegiance to music culture, communication of its heritage, and the diversity of its portfolio which demonstrates its commitment to developing premium expressions and flavoured offerings for its fan base, ultimately retaining them within the JD family. One just has to look at the unprecedented growth of Tennessee Honey to understand how the strategy has paid off. The expression, now the largest flavoured whiskey in the world, accounts for around 10% of Jack’s sales just two years after launch. Add to the mix the hype surrounding Sinatra Select (expect a new offshoot this year), JD No.27 Gold and JD Tennesee Fire, and just try to argue that this brand hasn’t nailed the art of the halo effect without creating cannibalisation of the core brand.
That said, key to the brand’s success going forward will be the ability to tread lightly with the introduction of NPDs to avoid diluting its message. McCallum claims JD’s ambitions for the year ahead will be to “continue to lead the globalisation of American whiskey and to capitalise on the continued interest in the category” by focusing on its core Black Label expression, all the while driving awareness of its premium extensions Gentleman Jack, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, and of course Tennessee Honey.
As for the concern that the rapidly expanding category could take market share from the global leader, McCallum is buoyant. “We have seen more and more consumer groups heighten their interest in the category and the brand, which bodes well for the future,” he says. “There is without a doubt far more new entries into this category than we have ever seen which is hugely exciting for the category and the consumer.”
Use the guide to your right to navigate your way through the spirit categories to discover the world’s largest spirit brands and our choice of the 2015 category Brand Champions.