The question of whether the rapid rise of flavored whiskey products is impacting the vodka category is open to interpretation.
Some believe the two are competing for the same customer, others think the spirits are aimed at different consumption occasions. Still others are more sanguine.
“Flavors are encouraging trial in new categories across the board,” says Heaven Hill’s Josh Hafer. “Both flavored vodkas and flavored whiskeys are experiencing similar flavor trends and welcoming consumers through an approachable way to try the product.”
“Flavored whiskey has not hurt flavored vodka tremendously, because they don’t really compete head to head,” says Ken Burnette, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for McCormick Distilling Co. “Flavored whiskey is more of a shooter, but the typical flavored vodka drinker is enjoying it in mixed cocktails.”
“The weakness in growth of flavored vodkas was likely due to some cannibalization from other flavored products—primarily flavored whiskeys,” says David Ozgo, Senior Vice President for Economic and Strategic Analysis for the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS).
“Brown spirits as a category are on the rise; flavored whiskeys are merely a natural part of the expansion, similar to how flavored vodkas rose alongside the vodka category,” Cîroc Brand Director Ryan Roberson. “The vodka drinker and whiskey drinker are different. However, we are seeing that many legacy vodka drinkers are now switching over to the whiskey category because brown spirits are currently trending.”
“We see flavored whiskey as an entry for consumers into that category, not detracting from vodka” says Richard Black, Vice President of Marketing, white spirits and cordials for Campari America.
The VP is bullish on the category as a whole, predicting a bright future. “We see vodka continuing to grow at low single digits, which is impressive for a category of its size.”
Thomas Henry Strenk is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with over 20 years experience covering the beverage and restaurant industries. In his small apartment-turned-alchemist-den, he homebrews beer kombucha, and concocts his own bitters and infusions.