Three of the top five fastest-growing spirits brands are vodkas, but whiskey is the category with the most momentum, according to the 2015 SpiritsTAB Report from Technomic Inc.
"A vodka brand with roots in Austin, Texas leads the spirits industry in growth, although it's not the one most might expect," says Eric Schmidt, research director at Technomic. "Deep Eddy Vodka achieved a triple-digit volume gain in 2014 and is poised to break 500,000 9-liter cases in 2015, propelled by the relevance of its 'local' roots, all-natural flavors and hand-crafted production. The brand took off at retail and its marketers are now focusing on national chain restaurants."
New Amsterdam Vodka and Tito's Handmade Vodka round out the three fastest-growing vodkas, but the real growth engine in the spirits industry today is whiskey, with straight American whiskeys expected to grow by 1.1 million cases in 2015, powered by the increased appeal of bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye. Cordials and liqueurs are also projected to gain 1.1 million cases, with much of the growth coming from the whiskey-flavored segment.
Meanwhile, the largest spirits category—vodka—is challenged as the flavored and import segments struggle. "We're not projecting accelerated growth for total vodka in 2015," observes Schmidt.
"Two-fifths (40 percent) of consumers report ordering American whiskey in restaurants and bars at least once a month, and slightly more than one third (35 percent) order flavored whiskey," says Donna Hood Crecca, senior director at Technomic. "About one-third also report ordering Scotch, Canadian or Irish whiskey frequently. American whiskey is also the top choice for shot or straight sipping at the bar. The whiskey craze has morphed into a strong trend that's unlikely to falter any time soon."
The upward trajectory of whiskey and changes in the vodka market are fueling growth for some spirits suppliers, resulting in shifts in market share.