The American whiskey category is projected to continue to grow at 5.6% for 2015 while vodka struggles to find new footing with only 1.4% growth as consumer shift to dark spirits continues. On a bright note for Vodka, three of the top five fastest-growing spirits brands overall 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.”

Fastest-Growing Spirits Brands (by volume 2014)

  • Deep Eddy Vodka:  157.1%
  • Fireball Whisky:  100%
  • Bulleit Bourbon:  46.7%
  • New Amsterdam Vodka:  46%
  • Tito’s Handmade Vodka:  44.4%

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.

Vodka vs. Whisky (Volume growth)

Year…………………….2012     2013     2014     2015
Vodka……………………5.2%     0.8%     0.7%      1.4%
American Whisky………6.6%     7.4%     5.3%      5.6%

“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.

The 2015 SpiritsTAB Report is part of Technomic’s Trends in Adult Beverage series, and provides an in-depth look at national volume and sales information on spirits categories, brands and suppliers, as well as actionable outlook and projection information, and consumer insights around spirits purchases on-premise and at retail.

Click here to see full size infographic.

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