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Consumers Continue to Alter Beverage Buying Habits as Super Premiums Lose Luster


Are recent statistics  that competition and sales of Vodka in the $10-20 price point an indicator that perhaps the Goose is ready to ‘jump the shark’?

From Vodka to Varietal Wines, sales are shifting as consumers and retailers are finding quality alternatives to higher profile and higher priced luxury brands. According to Nielsen data in the four weeks to October 17, both new and even some old brands of Vodka are benefiting while those that were associated with the old economy may be taking a bigger hit than expected. One of the hottest brands, and one that saw the greatest sales and promotional increases on premise in the third quarter are Constellation’s Brands Svedka which is up significantly registering a +17% gain on premise.  Brown-Forman’s Finlanda that has struggled for years is up +14% points and Diageo’s Smirnoff has benefited by its rainbow of flavors and is up 10% points. Skyy Vodka led the charge with significant increases in sales and visibility since last year, registered a 4% point increase. Brands like Pinnacle, 360°, Tenure, and Sobieski all have entered the marketplace to try to grab marketshare.

So where are these numbers coming from and why are their more brands under $20 being introduced? It’s obvious that its  the ‘bottom line’ for retailers and the ability to stretch the entertainment dollar for consumers that will continue to lower prices and crowd a ‘new market’. Area bartenders agree that ‘premium wells’ and $35 bottles of vodka may struggle this season. More customers are finding out what we already know, great cocktails can be made with almost any brand, and sometimes the mixers…and the mixolgist means more than the brand and bottle.

Even Icon brands like Stoli and Absolut seem to be effected by the  shift and recently Pernod-Ricard chief Pierre Pringuet said that Absolut may lower prices and change their image very soon. “We want Absolut to be the leading value brand in spirits, I did not say vodka, I did say premium spirits.”

Meanwhile, the big money brands like Grey Goose, Belvedere, Ketel One  continue to sell and will always have a place at most bars.  But consumer orders and the numbers indicate that we probably don’t need $35 flavored vodka. With the latest release of quality infusions the flavored business seems to belong to the under $20 brands. Grey Goose flavors are showing double digits drops quarterly, Ketel One Citron is their only flavor and always has been discounted with aggressive deals. Belvedere and other luxury flavors are usually free bottle sales incentives.

Wine sales on premise have seen dips in most categories but sales of wines under $20 wholesale seem to be strongest. Overall, off-premise sales have seen increases by discounters like Costco who reported a 7% wine and spirits increase.  Sutter Home is up 10% in the under $5 category and Barefoot Wines are showing a whopping 19.5% gain in the $11-20 segment as retailers adjust house wine and by the glass programs.

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Friday, November 24, 8:19 pm

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