What a great time to be in the cordial business. Consumers are running after what cordials offer — rich, dazzling flavors and seemingly endless variety and mixability.
With American taste trends turning in their direction, suppliers are pulling out all the stops by introducing lots of new, splashy flavors through line extensions and both off- and on-premise marketing programs designed to spur trial and whet consumers’ appetites even more.
“The category is in a really exciting place,” said Chris Gretchko, Group Product Director for Jim Beam Brands Worldwide Inc. “Traditionally, cordials were your destination for flavors. American cocktail culture has really gone to consumers, who want flavors and versatility. The variety of mixed drinks has expanded, as well as bartenders’ craftsmanship. Cordials have played a major role in the fun and variety that’s out there.”
“The whole return to cocktail culture has played very well into the hands of cordial and liqueur makers and importers,” observed Larry Kass, Heaven Hill Distilleries’ director of corporate communications. “Many are relying heavily not only on those traditional cordials and liqueurs, but on new cordials and liqueurs that are coming out. Those with new flavors and new tastes reflect the modern palate a little bit more, whether those are more sour or lots of creams. But it has given a huge opportunity to suppliers to find new ways for their products to be used.”
“The key is in flavors that revolutionized the cocktail culture and that are now translating to off-premise sales,” said Craig Johnson, Group Brand Director for Innovation for Allied Domecq, which markets Hiram Walker’s line of 29 cordials. “The trend starts on-premise with cocktails and drinks, and has now moved into everyday purchases and home consumption.”
“I think the business is doing fine,” said Donn Lux, president of David Sherman Corp. “New products continue to drive the traffic growth.” His company’s own business, he added, has remained “steady. I wouldn’t say it’s growing by leaps and bounds, but it’s certainly steady.”
The company’s newest entrants, introduced a couple of years ago, are Arrow Sour Apple and Melon Liqueurs. The late spring could see some additional items.
Dan Goodwin, marketing manager for Bols, credits innovative new cocktails. “What drove all of this was the Pucker line and the Apple Martini. That started the craze of not only color but fresh fruit flavors. Nobody wants to have a gap in his line-up. It leads to opportunities for other people to come in.”
Last year, privately-held Bols came out with a vanilla brandy. “It was a soft launch,” said Goodwin, “something we wanted to try.” The line includes 37 cordials at present, with flavors that range from Blue Curacao, Apple, Peppermint, Orange Curacao and Butterscotch to Pumpkin Pie, Black Anisette, Tangerine, Curacao Red and Vanilla Brandy.
“Our marketing strategy is essentially to market to the trade,” said Goodwin. “We market a high-value product. DeKuyper is more of a consumer-driven brand, while (we are) more of a trade-focused brand. With that comes a completely different strategy. And our strategy is, of course, custom tailored to the buyers.”
Pucker Island Blue, which debuted last year, is the latest flavor in Jim Beam Brands’ tremendously successful DeKuyper line of cordials.
Management is looking at some possible flavor introductions for the remainder of 2004, but as Goodwin added, “I don’t know if they’re going to roll. We’ll have to see how they test out.” He said he sees the proliferation of flavors continuing for a year or two. “Ultimately, it will run its course until there is more true innovation, instead of these little base hits.”
At Boisset America [previously Marie Brizard USA], marketing director Mike Avitable is really excited about the latest addition to the company’s 25-plus product lineup of Marie Brizard Liqueurs. Just launching is Manzanita, which mans “little green apple.” The name is a take-off on manzana verde (“green apple,” in Spanish), and is made using the juice of Spanish apples. “Manzanita delivers a good balance between sweetness and acidity,” Avitable said. “It is not a sour apple taste. It tastes more like you just squeezed juice out of a Granny Smith apple. And the flavor is all natural.”
Though part of the Marie Brizard line, the clear Manzanita is intended to function as a brand “in and of itself,” said Avitable. Indeed, Manzanita is currently one of the top-selling cordials in France, he noted, and it is just the first in a group of new flavors to be introduced soon to the Marie Brizard line. The other flavors will be Canela (cinnamon), Melocoton (peach), Coconut and Limoncine (lemon). “Manzanita is great chilled with ice, mixed with vodka and in a variety of other ways,” Avitable said. It is available in 750 ml bottles for $14.99 suggested retail.
DeKuyper ‘Pushing Education’
Last year saw “phenomenal” growth for DeKuyper, the category’s leader, said Gretchko. Indeed, it was early last year that Jim Beam launched Pucker Island Blue. DeKuyper products are priced at around $10.
A sweet and sour schnapps, Pucker Island Blue is low proof (15% ABV), has a neon blue color, and is the latest in the line of Pucker flavors that includes Grape, Sour Apple, Peach and Watermelon, Raspberry and Cherry Berry.
The 25-plus product line of Marie Brizard Liqueurs just added Manzanita to its lineup. The apple- flavored cordial is meant to function as a brand in and of itself, the company said, and will be followed by similar (but different flavored) products.
“Off-premise, we’re really pushing education for consumers, so they know how easy it is to make great cocktails,” said Gretchko. “If you go into the store you’re going to see materials that include recipe cards and tear pads. The point-of -sale shows recipes, and our ads are going to show recipes. We’re really trying to be very proactive in making cocktails easy for people. On-premise, our brands are so vibrant we’re going to try and make sure we do some promoting there, too.”
Gretchko said there are no new introductions set for this year “because Island Blue isn’t even a year old.” Rather, Jim Beam will focus on building the brand’s momentum. Beam’s Leroux line continues as the price leader on the East Coast and other selected markets. The company also markets the stand-alone brands After Shock, a more premium hot cinnamon (competing against Goldschlager and Rumplemintz), and Kamora, a coffee-flavored product, as well as Chateaux.
Cordials make up what Gretchko called “a complex area of the store. But if retailers take advantage of all the mixability that’s going on and understand that cordials are among the most versatile things in their stores,” they will succeed. “There are so many really interesting things they can do to spark additional, spontaneous sales.”
Fruja, a sub-brand of Allied Domecq’s line of Hiram Walker Cordials & Liqueurs, rolled out nationally last year with three flavors: Mango, Tangerine and Raspberry.
At Heaven Hill Distilleries, the DuBouchett line of cordials has “traditionally had a very strong regional bias,” according to Kass, “and we’ve been working very hard over the past few years to take it out of its traditional breadbasket, which is the Midwest. We’re having some success expanding the line into other markets.”
“Last year we re-launched our sour line,” said marketing manager Reid Massie, with a trio of flavor introductions — Watermelon, Pineapple and Blueberry. “In our top markets those are in full distribution. We’re trying to expand distribution and put a lot of focus on the flavors.” New “up-to-date” packaging should help.
Real, True Fruit Flavor
Hiram Walker’s newest entrant, Fruja, is a sub-brand that includes three flavors: Mango, Tangerine and Raspberry. Fruja was rolled out nationally last September, and retails for $10.99 for a 750.
Fruja is reportedly the first liqueur made with 100% all-natural citrus flavors. “The whole idea behind Fruja was that it was a real, true fruit flavor,” noted Johnson. “That was a trend we had seen in the marketplace, as consumers were kind of looking for real tried and true fruit flavors, not candied, sweet, fake flavors. We really tried to take the essence of the fruit. Also, people are looking for a little bit more exotic flavors. That was why mango and tangerine were included.”
The goal is to stimulate on-premise trial to generate awareness and build sales off-premise, where price promotions and point-of-sale (shelf talkers, bottleneckers and window signs) are used. “One of the major pushes we did when we launched it was a big 50 ml program,” Johnson recalled.
Joining Barton Brands line of 99 schnapps (which include Banana, Apple and Blackberry flavors) is its newest, just-released flavor: 99 Oranges.
“We’ve always looked at the key to growing the cordials business as being all about trial,” said Johnson. “That goes from off- to on-premise trial, including off-premise in-store sampling, and putting new recipes on the pack or bottle. Trial is key in this category because everybody knows these flavors, but not in this form.”
To create initial buzz about the new product line, Fruja was introduced at on-premise events by “First Choice” representatives in select markets across the U.S. Timed for the arrival of the spring and summer seasons, Fruja is now available in more than 10,000 on-premise and more than 4,000 off-premise accounts.
For its part, Barton Brands has had solid success with its line of 99 Schnapps, which comes in banana, blackberry and apple flavors. Now Barton is debuting 99 Oranges, featuring a refreshing citrus taste and aroma of oranges, the company says. The new 99 Oranges is 99 proof, just as 99 Bananas, 99 Apples and 99 Blackberries, and is available in 50 ml, 750 ml and 1 liter bottles.
Variation, in fact, is a key to the cordials market, along with exciting, vibrant flavors. The choices, like a lot of the recent successes, might just be endless. *