Pernod Ricards launch of Wyborowa Oddka highlights the drive towards quirky spirits flavours

Pernod Ricard's launch of Wyborowa Oddka highlights the drive towards quirky spirits flavours

Starting this month, Tom Vierhile from Datamonitor takes a look at the world of new product development. First up, Tom casts an eye at the more outre spirits launches of the last few months.

You have to be 21 to drink alcohol beverages in the US. But, if you want to design an innovative new alcohol drink, then think like a 12-year-old. That seems to be the new mantra in the liquor category, judging from 2012’s record-setting crop of unusual new alcohol beverage flavours.

Clearly, something weird is going on in alcohol beverage flavor innovation. Anytime a year starts out with kid-friendly flavours like cupcakes (Cupcake Flavored Vodka from Underdog Wine & Spirits), marshmallows (Smirnoff Fluffed Marshmallow Flavored Vodka from Smirnoff Co.) and peanut butter & jelly (Vincent Van Gogh PB&J Vodka from Dirkzwager Distilleries) as reported by Datamonitor’s Product Launch Analytics database of new products, you know something is up.

And, just to prove that this flavour trend is no fluke, the strangest new batch of vodka flavours to hit store shelves in a long time comes from none other than the US unit of Pernod Ricard, an alcohol beverage giant that seems to have thrown caution to the wind with its appropriately-named Wyborowa Oddka.

No doubt about it, Oddka is odd. First off, who knew that a scent like cut grass would be a good candidate for a vodka flavour? But, that’s just what Pernod has done with Fresh Cut Grass Oddka, which is said to be “crisp, citrusy, sweet and refreshing.” It makes you want to mow the lawn and throw the clippings in a glass of lemonade, huh. Pernod may be onto something here, as 'fresh cut grass' is not only a sure sign of spring; it’s a top fragrance in its own right. In fact, fragrance purveyor Demeter lists glass fragrance as one of its “top 30 scents.”

But, Oddka doesn’t stop there. Why would you, when you can come up with a flavour like Electricity Vodka? No plugs, adapters and outlets involved here, just a flavour said to be a “bolt of lightning in a bottle” and taste bud-tickling. Against a roster like this, some of the other flavors in the Oddka line, which includes Wasabi, Salty Caramel Popcorn and Apple Pie, sound downright pedestrian.

So, what is going on here? Maybe liquor producers have made it their mission to take the mystery out of spirits with approachable and fun flavours that almost all consumers are familiar with.

For instance, there’s no mystery about what you get with Saphroc Liqueur Infused with Bubblegum and Tequila Flavor from South Africa’s Independent Liquor SA. Nor are the caramel and truffle flavours for Vod-K Vodka con Caramelo y Trufa from Fryd Food & Drink in Spain all that mysterious. Although, pairing the two is definitely a first. And, the coconut flavour for Old Eight Whiskey Aromatizado Com Coco from Campari's Brazilian division is self-explanatory. To the uninitiated, these flavours sound less polarising than base liquors like whisk(e)y, gin, rum, Tequila, and vodka.

As these product launches indicate, attracting a new generation of consumers to the market with fun, non-threatening new flavours has become the name of the game in 2012. Many of those prospective consumers are younger consumers that tend to be attracted to - and more likely to experiment with - new flavours. According to Datamonitor’s 2011 Global Consumer Survey, 52% of drinkers between 22-24 years of age enjoy experimenting with different alcohol beverage flavours and mixes. This compares to just 24% of drinkers between the ages of 50 and 64 who gave the same response.

These younger consumers are likely to be the target market for unique new flavors like Tequila with Dark Chocolate offered under the Olmeca Fusion banner in Spain by Pernod's Spanish division. Likewise, these younger consumers – many of whom are already big fans of energy drinks – may take a shine to launches like Entropia Guarana & Ginseng Gin, a recent introduction in Spain from Novalicor Auria.

One side benefit of unusual new flavours is that they have a tendency to push consumers in an upscale direction when it comes to price. According to Datamonitor’s 2011 Global Consumer Survey, nearly one in two alcohol drinkers globally said they would be encouraged to pay more for an alcohol beverage if it had a unique taste or flavour.

Of course, what one consumer feels is a unique flavor may not be the case to another consumer. Many of the sweeter new liquor flavours may undoubtedly skew towards females. Indeed, what man is going to belly up to the bar and order a shot of cupcake-flavoured vodka? But, men are not to be left out, as innovation in spicy alcohol beverages seems to point in their direction. At least, that is one interpretation of launches like Bear Hug Tequila Infusion in flavors like Chili Pepper, a new US launch from California-based Innovative Liquors.

But, when it comes to hot and spicy, there probably is not an alcoholic drink hotter or spicier than Master of Malt's 100,000 Scovilles Naga Chili Vodka. Launched in the UK earlier this year, this vodka is flavoured with Naga Jolokia peppers (also known as “ghost peppers”). The beverage is so hot tasting that retailers selling it have come up with health warnings that the vodka “contains extreme heat” and, if given as a gift, the recipient should be made aware of the “potential danger if used or handled irresponsibly”. To some consumers, this is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

Then again, it fits right in with the oddball flavour theme for 2012.