Stoli Vodka is launching Stoli Crushed, a line of two flavored vodkas made with real fruit juice – pineapple and ruby red grapefruit. At 30% ABV, the vodkas are made with Stoli’s gluten-free base, which launched last year, and blended with real fruit juices. I recently spoke to Stoli’s Director of Brand Marketing, Russ Pareti, about the launch and the fruit juice vodka category in general.
Beverage Wholesaler: Why is now the right time for you to launch Stoli Crushed?
Russ Pareti: It all starts with consumer trends. When we were developing Crushed, we were looking for consumer insights to make sure we’re on the leading edge of consumer demands and lifestyle changes. We noticed there wasn’t a premium vodka in the fruit juice segment of the category, so we started developing Crushed two years ago.
The vodka category has been flat, so like many other brands we’re looking to recruit new consumers through innovation. This gives us an opportunity to expand our base, especially just ahead of the summer months. This is a product that’s convenient when heading to the beach, at the pool or at a barbeque. It allows consumers to pour it over ice or mix it with some club soda, and they’re ready to go.
BW: How do you categorize Crushed, since it’s not a typical flavored vodka?
RP: It’s part of the real fruit juice spirits category, and we call it almost ready-to-drink since it can be consumed on the go. Whereas traditional flavors are made with natural essences, Crushed uses fruit juice and doesn’t need other mixers – although they can certainly be used to create cocktails. The other point of differentiation is the price point. Crushed has a suggested price of $16.99 for a 750-ml. bottle, compared to $19.99 for our flavored vodkas.
BW: How does the target consumer for Crushed compare to Stoli Gluten Free, which launched last year?
RP: This product is made with our gluten free vodka, which is made from 88% corn and 12% buckwheat. Most gluten free vodkas are made from 100% of one ingredient, but after doing a lot of research we determined the perfect ratio of corn and buckwheat – which is more expensive, but tastes great.
BW: A lot of suppliers are turning away from confectionary flavors in vodka and toward citrus. What are the biggest trends impacting the flavored part of the category?
RP: There was a huge flavor boom, and now a lot of consumers have shifted away from confectionary. However, classic flavors have remained a staple and our flavored business has actually grown in the last year. What you’re seeing is a return to authentic flavors, and as a result vodkas made with fruit juices have seen explosive growth recently. We believe that success will continue for years to come.
BW: Do you see Crushed as its own line, which will add more flavors?
RP: Yes, absolutely. I would anticipate in the next year or two, more extensions will be coming out as we identify which flavors meet the ever-evolving tastes of modern consumers.