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New dessert flavours have boosted vodka's continung popularity in the US spirits market, while whiskey's resurgence continues unabated, according to an analyst's study of the country's fastest-growing spirits brands.

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Vodka takes up eight of the 22 spots on this year's Impact magazine Hot Brands report, according to a note from Bernstein Research today (7 June). The annual list highlights the top-performing brands based on volume sales, with only high-growth brands included.

Senior Bernstein analyst Trevor Stirling said that second-place Pinnacle Vodka's Whipped line has enjoyed “tremendous success”, and has since been followed by Smirnoff's and UV Vodka's own dessert ranges.

Pinnacle's 93% volume growth between 2010 and 2011 was the highest of all the vodka brands on the Impact list, although Constellation's Svedka Vodka brand sold more overall.

However, Svedka's popularity has shown signs of slowing, Stirling warned, with growth last year down to 10.5%, from 19% the year before and 31% in 2008 to 2009.

Stirling said whisk(e)y is enjoying a renaissance in the US, thanks to young “hipsters” who have embraced the drink. Seven of the 22 brands on the latest list are whisk(e)y.

Stirling said Jameson and Maker's Mark are showing exceptional growth, with 29% and 15% volume growth respectively in 2011.

Young people have also been attracted by sweeter new flavours, including 18th-placed Red Stag, which grew volume by 58% last year, and 16th-placed Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey, a new entry on the list.

Another successful newcomer is Beam Inc's Skinnygirl and its range of lower-calorie RTD cocktails. Skinnygirl took 11th spot on the Impact list, with volume growth of 550%, compared to 1,700% the year before.

Stirling said Skinnygirl is in the vanguard of a new drinks genre.

“Following the success of Skinnygirl, we are seeing other companies introduce similar low-calorie, female targeted products, i.e. brands like Ivana B. Skinny,” Stirling said. “These brands are examples of the shifting focus towards women and we are seeing similar trends in beer and wine.”

To be included in Impact's Hot Brands list, brands must have double-digit growth in 2009, 2010 and 2011, with at least 15% growth in 2010-11 and have a minimum volume requirement of 200,000 cases in 2011.


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