For as long as beer, wine and spirits have been made, flavorings have been added. Ingredients were sometimes added to make a spirit more palatable. Others were added to improve one’s health. Medieval alchemists spent as much time trying to create elixirs of life as they did trying to turn lead into gold. The real gold, it turns out, is in the cordials and liqueurs they developed.
Cordials and liqueurs comprise the second largest spirits category in the industry behind vodka. And that category is growing, thanks to consumer taste trends. Last year, the category was up 1.3% to 17.6 million 9-liter cases, according to Adams Handbook Advance 2002. Because the category is so diverse, brand performances varied. Lots of activity and new product introductions, however, attest to the category’s health.
The key to success these days is “mixability.” Consumers continue to demand new flavor experiences, and cordials and liqueurs are just the ticket.
“The category has always been all about flavor and mystique,” said Ed Gualtieri, executive vice president of marketing at Barton Brands, “but we see cordials growing as a flavor ingredient in martinis, shooters and mixed drinks.”
A number of factors are contributing to the trend. Younger, entry level consumers have grown up on a wide variety of flavored products, especially beverages, such as soda, flavored waters, teas and energy drinks. They’re experiential and willing to experiment with flavors. At the same time, what’s old is new again. Retro is chic, and classic cocktails are in.
“It’s an exciting time for cordials in general because of the resurgence in classic cocktails with a twist,” said Chris Gretchko, group product director at Jim Beam Brands. “People are experimenting with tastes in food and drinks, and the sections of the store where people can find new flavors is growing.”
What makes the category successful, however, also makes it difficult to get your arms around it. With so many products and so much diversity, knowing what to stock and how to merchandise your selection can be difficult.
“New drinkers and trendsetters in on-premise are driving people to off-premise,” said Craig Johnson, director of marketing for Advantage Brands at Allied-Domecq.
“We’re seeing people trying new drinks to have fun when they’re out, then going to the store and looking for things to mix themselves,” Gretchko said. “Even places like Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel are selling things like shakers.”
What makes cordials and liqueurs so difficult to categorize is that, like “Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans” in the Harry Potter stories, they come in almost every flavor imaginable. Even when one flavor dominates, there are often so many other ingredients that it’s difficult to put a cordial in any specific slot.
Grand Marnier is promoting its “Millionaire Margarita,” made with the upscale liqueur.
In general, the category can be divided into proprietary brands, made from a secret formula often centuries old, and generic liqueurs. Proprietary brands include well-known names such as Grand Marnier, Drambuie, Kahlua, B&B and Cointreau. Generics include products such as amaretto, anisette, peppermint schnapps, or triple sec that are made in a specific style by a number of producers.
The proprietary brands have seen mixed results, depending in large part on their flavor. Products with recognizable flavors that mix well are growing faster than those that are an acquired taste or not as well known. Orange, for example, is a flavor that has taken off. Grand Marnier and Cointreau, both orange-based liqueurs, have had tremendous success in branded upscale cocktails like Cosmopolitans and margaritas. Others are trying to find ways to hitch onto the bandwagon.
“After-dinner drinks are dying off slowly,” said Duncan Horner, Benedictine/B&B brand manager at Bacardi USA. “People are drinking cocktails before dinner, not after, because of DUI laws and other reasons. The consumers who have after-dinner drinks are a lot older, so brands like ours are looking for ways to appeal to younger drinkers, and mixability is a key.”
Benedictine and B&B are promoting new drink recipes and mixability both at on-premise, with shakers, coasters, retro lamps and retro French B&B artwork, and off-premise, with case bin displays, case cards, recipe neckers and holiday gift packs featuring rocks glasses or a coffee press.
Drambuie, another brand at Bacardi USA, is differentiating itself through special events targeted to younger consumers with a sense of adventure. Its fourth annual world ice golf championship takes place in Uummannaq, Greenland, in April. The brand also sponsors powerboat racing.
Irish Mist, imported by Allied-Domecq, has been reinventing itself with a new package design last year and new point-of-sale materials this year to demonstrate new uses.
Drambuie, from Bacardi USA, is promoting its fourth annual ice golf championship in Greenland this April.
Southern Comfort recently finished up a flurry of activity in New Orleans, where the brand was born, for both The Super Bowl and Mardi Gras. The brand is taking its mixability story to younger consumers through sponsorship of a New Orleans band’s tour, a partnership with Island Oasis and joint promotion with TGI Friday’s for the “Southern Hurricane,” and a cranberry juice co-pack at retail.
Because consumers are interested in a variety of flavors, producers of cordial lines are finding new opportunities to take advantage of the trend.
DeKuyper has had tremendous success with its Pucker line of sweet and sour flavors. A new flavor debuts later this month. The brand uses a rotating label on its products with different drink recipes to give consumers ideas on how to use the products. A website being launched this month will have more of the same, along with news and trends. New case cards this year will feature vivid 3-D graphics to catch the consumer’s eye.
A “worst bridesmaid’s dress” contest is running through mid-April. Women age 21 and older can submit photos of bridesmaid’s dresses they’ve worn for a chance to win a trip to Puerto Rico and a June trip to New York for the world’s largest bachelorette party.
Pucker Apple’s successful “Appletini” gift set with a bottle of Vox vodka, Pucker Apple, shaker set, glasses and napkins will run again in June in time for Father’s Day.
DeKuyper cordials and liqueurs, from Jim Beam Brands, has been tremendously successful with its line of Pucker products, especially the Pucker Apples “Appletini.”
Hiram Walker has repositioned its Sour Balls line, giving it a more upscale look for use in cocktails such as flavored martinis. This month the brand kicks off sampling efforts, on-pack consumer offers and new p-o-s to support the line. A new website, launched in February, also shows consumers how to make many of the latest cocktails.
The line has been promoting a CD-ROM featuring 200 martini recipes assembled with the help of the staff of Windows On The World. Sales of the CD benefit the Windows of Hope Foundation, which helps victims of the World Trade Center disaster.
The Mr. Boston line, produced by Barton Brands, has been successful leveraging its own Mr. Boston bar guide. “We wrote the book on cocktails,” Gualtieri said. The brand gives consumers an opportunity to purchase the book at a discount off-premise.
Other lines, such as Bols, Jacquin and Arrow, also are capitalizing on flavored cocktails.
Baileys Original Irish Cream is still the king of creams, surpassing sales of 1 million cases last year, a 6.0% gain over 2000. The brand has pursued an extended use strategy for several years, promoting cocktails made with Baileys throughout the year.
While Baileys most often gets the call in on-premise accounts, however, others do quite well at retail. Number-two Carolans has a heavy emphasis on sampling to show consumers it tastes as good as any cream liqueur on the market. The brand estimates it sponsored more than 1,000 sampling events last year alone, including venues like the “Pepsi 400” at Daytona. Since brand sales have been less seasonal than Baileys, Carolans will be putting greater emphasis on the holidays this year.
O’Mara’s Irish Cream also has been successful with sampling, often using special non-alcoholic candies where beverage-alcohol sampling is not legal to give the brand greater exposure. Because O’Mara’s is wine-based, it has been able to secure distribution in non-traditional outlets such as grocery, c-stores and club stores.
The Irish aren’t the only ones with a lock on cream liqueurs, however. Heather Cream is a Scotch-based cream liqueur imported by Barton Brands. Tequila Rose is a tequila-based, strawberry-flavored cordial. There is even a rum-based cream, Cruzan Rum Cream, from the Virgin Islands. And just introduced from Brown-Forman is Amarula, a cream liqueur made from the marula tree in Africa. The brand claims it is the second best-selling cream liqueur in the world, even before its U.S. introduction.
Seed, Nuts and Beans
Of all the liqueurs made from seeds, nuts and beans, Kahlua is probably the largest. This coffee liqueur has been promoting its mixability for years, helping make it one of the biggest brands in the world. The brand is presently running a “Half Pipe Jam” promotion through April that offers consumers a chance to win a trip to the 2003 Free Skiing Open competition.
Other well-known coffee liqueurs include Kamora, from Jim Beam Brands, and Tia Maria, a lighter, Jamaican liqueur imported by Allied-Domecq.
Chocolate is another favorite cordial flavor made from the bean of the cacao tree. Besides creme de cocoa, which is used in a wide variety of cocktails, popular chocolate liqueurs include Godiva and Vandermint.
Nuts and seeds are the base of a number of liqueurs from Italy. Perhaps the most famous, often called the liqueur of love, is amaretto. Made with almonds and apricots, this popular liqueur now is made by dozens of producers. One of the best known brands, DiSaronno, is investing in programs to make its name synonymous with amaretto.
DiSaronno is one of the best-known brands of Italian amarettos.
The brand has made gradual changes to the label on its trademark rectangular bottle, downplaying the word “amaretto” on the front and making the brand name more prominent. In April, “amaretto” disappears from the front label entirely.
To encourage consumers to ask for the brand by name, the brand is using voice-chip technology in its point-of-sale materials. Tabletents, keychains and waitstaff buttons talk to consumers on-premise, saying “DiSaronno, try it on the rocks to light a fire.” Off-premise shelf talkers and case cards reinforce the message. This summer, the brand will promote a 750 ml gift pack that includes a glass cocktail shaker and recipe booklet.
Frangelico, made with hazelnuts, berries and herbs, is another Italian liqueur.
Yet another pervasive flavor among cordials is licorice. Italy’s sambuca is produced with fruit from white-flowered elderberry bushes. It typically turns milky when diluted with water. Opal Nera is a black sambuca that retains its color even when mixed.
Cordials made with anise seed also have a licorice flavor. Anisette and pastis from France, and ouzo from Greece are all versions of this type of liqueur.