Blog: Olly WehringVodkat - Is this problem really an opportunity?

Olly Wehring | 29 January 2010

Diageo’s legal victory against 22% abv 'vodka look-a-like' Vodkat last week has been hailed as “a major step in the legal protection of the vodka category” by the Gin & Vodka Association (GVA).

Vodkat brand owner Intercontinental Brands (ICB) is still mulling over a possible appeal against the High Court ruling that it was passing Vodkat off as a full-strength vodka, but what will the longer-term knock-on effects be of the Vodkat saga?

The brand sold nearly 9m litres, netting revenues of over GBP50m, in the period from its launch in May 2005 to late 2009 – making it the fastest growing spirits brand in the UK in that timescale.

Diageo and the GVA will argue that much of that growth was spurious, based on the mistaken consumer assumption that they were buying a regular vodka. But, it’s still hard to escape the conclusion that there is demand for low-strength, mixable 'light spirits' like Vodkat.

At a time of unprecedented social concerns over the effects of strong alcohol, and with wine and beer both exploring lower-strength alternatives, is the time ripe to develop a mid-strength mixable category – stronger than wine, but weaker than full-strength spirits?

Given the Vodkat decision, it’s hard at this stage to say what this category will look like, since it appears it can’t even allude to a full-strength product like vodka or, say, gin.

But could a Vodkat-like product – albeit one with a less controversial name – be a hit with consumers? And who might emerge to lead this pioneering new category? A rebranded Vodkat from ICB? Or a brand-new product from a company like Diageo?

 


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