Super Troopers

This move has been most noticeable in vodka, but it has also played out in the gin category. “The growth that we see in gin is very much about a shift from standard and value brands to premium and super-premium brands,” says Iglesias.

“The standard segment has been in decline for a long time, and that is as much about a demand for higher quality as it is about generational differences in brand preference. So, while the standard segment has seen volumes decline consistently by 1% over the past 10 years, premium gins have been growing by an average of 4% over the same time [IWSR 2014]. We are now at the stage where the global volume of premium gin is approaching that of standard gin, whereas 10 years ago standard brands outsold premium gins by two to one [IWSR 2014] and this is a trend that is set to continue.”


In the US, the super-premium gin category grew by almost 20% in 2014, though from a fairly small base. DISCUS’ Ozgo asks: “Will we see something like the Grey Goose of the gin category where a brand that retails for $30-$35 per bottle gets to the million case level? I certainly hope so. However, I think it could be more difficult. When Grey Goose came along we were in a period where whiskey, the largest spirits category, generally was still in decline. Thus, the vodka category did not have much competition. But, there has been a huge resurgence in the whiskey category, especially bourbon in the past two to three years that is still going strong.  So, it will be much more difficult for a super-premium gin to hit that million case level.”

When spirits brands have large portfolios and consumers are trading up, it is sometimes said there is danger of cannibalisation.

“Of course the ideal would be to have both premium and super-premium products in rude heath,” William Grant’s O’Connor says. “However, if you had to choose, having your super-premium products ‘cannibalising’ your premium ones would definitely be preferable – it’s when it’s the other way round that you’ve got an issue.

“The only watch-out would be if you had a brand with both premium and super-premium variants, and knew people traded up through the range – in that case if the premium brand was suffering you might be reducing your pool of future super-premium consumers and thus long-term sales.”

For Mauricio Vergara, CMO for Bacardi in North America, the single most important thing is to add value for consumers. “That doesn’t mean lower prices. It means outstanding quality, great stories, and engaging in consumers’ day-to-day life.”

Vergara says Bacardi is trying to understand the consumer trends and be more aggressive in premiumising its portfolio – Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire, Dewar’s 12 and others. He says even standard brands, such as Bacardi Superior, can play a role “by providing exceptional quality at  good value for money – but, by engaging consumers with credible, relevant messages, not by discounting.


“Consumers are looking for credibility – not provenance. You need a credible story that people care about, not necessarily a history or a home. Stories have to be substantiated in the intrinsic product, its process, its ingredients, its craftsmanship or other variables, but they have to mean something and be interesting and valuable for consumers. In the end, credible and relevant brand stories are what make consumers want and be willing to pay more for a brand.”