Washington Restaurant Market Watch: Flavored spirits enjoy a “golden renaissance” in 2015

Washington Restaurant Market Watch: Flavored spirits enjoy a “golden renaissance” in 2015 https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/liquor_homepage1_feature.jpg

By Paul Schlienz

Flavored spirits are set for a spirited rise in popularity in 2015. These alcoholic beverages already attracted many new fans during 2014 with a rise in artisan and small-batch products.

“We’re in a golden renaissance age of spirits, just in general,” Kate Ratliff, technical director of Flavorman, the Kentucky-based beverage development company that works with clients to create new recipes, told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “It has never been a more exciting time to work in the spirits space than the last handful of years. The innovation is tremendous.”

Throughout 2014, cinnamon was an especially popular flavor for whiskey and other spirits, but ginger is an up-and-coming flavor that is expected to increase in popularity in 2015.

“I think the exciting part is that it is all largely driven by the popularity of whiskey, and bourbon in particular in the last couple of years,” David Ozgo, senior vice president of economic and strategic analysis at the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, told the Charlotte Observer. “You wouldn’t have flavors if you didn’t have the increased popularity of bourbon. It’s a new way to try an old product for a lot of people.”

Flavored spirits first emerged in the 1980s. Preferences are cyclical, but perennial favorites have a way of coming back around with new twists. Citrus vodka and apple-flavored moonshine are consistently popular. Other favorite flavors, including orange and raspberry, alternately stand alone or mix with other favorites such as chocolate, creating something new.

Flavored whiskeys were once considered a kind of vodka knock-off or social media fad, but they are coming into their own, with 4.5 million cases sold in 2013.  Forty-five percent, or 1.4 million cases of growth in whiskey sales came from flavored whiskeys, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

Late last year, Ozgo estimated that flavored whiskey sales would top 5.4 million cases for 2014.

“I think it’s the foodie culture and craft movement in general,” Kirsten Wemer, Flavorman’s lab manager, told SmartBlogs. “We see it a lot with the distributors, the trend is for unique, small-batch. It’s because of the foodie culture and the exposure to TV shows and different ingredients — people are willing to try more things and pay more money for them.”

There is also an age factor in flavored whiskey’s rising popularity, especially sweet varieties like cinnamon.

“Playing to the sweet tooth of millennials is a necessary component of a successful strategy over the long run,” Stephen Rannekliev, an analyst for Rabobank, told the Observer. “They certainly seem to be more accepting of the fact that they have a sweet tooth. Where older drinkers had one but didn’t want to admit it. … Millennials don’t try to hide it.”

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