Millionaires' Club: Fastest Growing Spirits

Drinks International's annual league of million-case brands returns. Here is a list of the world's fastest growing brands in 2015. 

In times of economic downturn, opportunists emerge. Status Group has only been established a couple of years but by the end of 2015 it was Russia’s biggest distiller, ahead of Synergy and Roust. It took advantage of the Russian government’s lowering of the minimum price for spirits from $3.50 per bottle to $2.90 per bottle, offering a financially beleaguered consumer affordable vodka.

The result saw Staraya Marka (up 242%), Dobriy Medved (up 173%) and Narodnaya (up 100%) growing in triple digits and becoming three of the four fastest growing brands in the Millionaires’ Club this year.

The trio were only denied a Status Group-podium by the rapid rise of White & Blue, an Indian whisky that seems to have appeared out of nowhere. This time last year the brand was at 0.4m cases and put on 184% to finish 2015 on 1.2m cases.

We spoke to Alcobrew Distilleries to find out how it mixed low price with premium packaging to lure Indian consumers. “The opening up of the Indian economy has increased the disposable income of consumers who now look for value-added premium products,” the company told DI. “Consumers are choosing White & Blue because we provide a top-of-the-segment blend along with premium packaging – canister packaging for the 75cl bottle and mono-carton in pint and nip [sizes]. All these factors combined resulted in the achievement of exponential growth of White & Blue in a short period of time.”

Bangalore Malt whisky is another to put on sizable growth in the Indian whisky market.

The sales came exclusively from Karnataka, a southwesterly state that is home to the technology capital of India, Bangalore. Its owner, John Distilleries, explained to DI the strategy behind the brand: “Our company started focusing on the cheaper whisky category, with Bangalore Malt whisky as its key offering.

“The brand has turned [out] extremely well, as evidenced by its steep year-on-year-growth and our company has emerged a clear winner in this category, nudging out some well established brands.”

Meanwhile Roust, best known for its Russian Standard brand based in Russia, provided another highlight of the Fastest Growing list, with great success in the Polish market, of which it now holds a 39% share.

Its Soplica brand was up 26% and Zytniówka 23%, but perhaps most impressive was growing Zubrówka by 18%, from 5.2m cases to 6.2m cases. DI spoke to Grant Winterton, global CEO of Roust, about the brand’s performance. “Zubrówka is the best-selling vodka in Poland, one of the world’s largest vodka markets,” he said.  “Throughout the year, our hero brand has continued its international growth thanks to a global Roust distribution platform. “Zubrówka Biała, in new upgraded packaging, has enhanced its market leadership in Poland, and has become the top selling vodka. We have also successfully launched a flavoured Zubrówka Zlota brand to strengthen our leadership position.”

Elsewhere in Fastest Growing it’s a familiar tale of Indian whisky brands Royal Challenge (up 40%), Imperial Blue (up 25%), Officer’s Choice (up 15%) and Blenders Pride (up 14%), but on the Fastest Declining list you see the market has its downslopes.

Diageo brands Haywards Fine, which fell 37%, McDowell’s Green Label (down 19%), Bagpiper (down 16%) and Gold Riband (down 15%) all had years to forget.

Diageo also tops the Fastest Declining list with its brand Cacique. The rum, based in Venezuela, is a barometer for the embattled South American state’s economic health – which is, to say the least, ailing.