Vodka: Premium Bonds

The US has long been a pioneer in the booze business – it has to be. If you want to get ahead in a mature market, you have to innovate.

Innovation is occurring not only at big company level but also at craft level.

Beveridge adds: “In America, we continue to see craft distilleries open. I have read that there are now approximately 650 craft distilleries in the States and by the end of 2014 that number is expected to rise to between 700 and 750. So, definitely expect to see more and more as the months go by.”

What does craft mean, though?

So says Tito: “Craft is not about size. Craft is about the quality of the product. We still make our handmade vodka the same way we always have – with real people making the head and tail cuts each time through our six copper pot distillations.”

Novel ideas from other markets are also looking to the US for expansion. New Zealand, with its historical association with the dairy industry, is home to a vodka made from milk. Milk Money is distilled from milk sugars and has just entered the US market via Leche Spirits, of Roswell, New Mexico.

The company plans to seed the product in agricultural communities – which must be a first for a vodka brand plan.

According to Ellis Visser, president of Leche Spirits: “Milk Money vodka is extremely smooth, full-bodied and possesses a light sweet finish. We’re hoping it will appeal to a wide range of individuals who enjoy a premium vodka. However, we will focus heavily on females within the agricultural community, aged 21-45 years.”

Milk Money vodka is 40% abv, twice distilled and gluten free. Following its introduction in New Mexico and Colorado, it will be rolled out to other mid-western states, including Wisconsin, Nebraska and Minnesota. The retail price for the 75cl bottle is $19.99.

Making vodka from, shall we say, less traditional products is a bit of a trend and in the UK Chase distillery has been making vodka from apples – but it’s not apple-flavoured vodka. Interesting stuff, especially as there are some signs that the actual flavoured vodka market is slowing down in its US heartland.

In November 2013, on-trade research company Restaurant Sciences reported that sales of on-premise flavoured vodkas fell 11.7% from Q3 2012 to Q3 2013. The researcher analysed more than 170 million drink orders and says flavoured vodka lost nearly 1% of its on-premise spirits market share over the same period.

Some brands bucked the trend and Restaurant Sciences says there were 46 new flavoured vodka launches since 2012.

Chuck Ellis, president and CEO of Restaurant Sciences adds: “Since its peak, flavoured vodka has lost market share over the past 12 months to other flavoured spirits, such as whiskey. A few select brands, such as Grey Goose Cherry Noir, up 11.6%, and Smirnoff Cranberry, up 19%, are still showing excellent growth.”

But Restaurant Sciences said there was bad news for some other big-name brands, including Stolichnaya and Grey Goose’s other flavours.