Tequila is on fire.
The category grew 6.1% in the U.S. in 2017 for a total of 17.3 million 9-liter cases, according to the Beverage Information and Insights Group. As recently as 2012 tequila was just 12.9 million cases. Growth has propelled numerous brands, including these four tequilas and one mezcal.
This Luxco brand exploded last year. Exotico grew 73.8% to reach 106,000 cases, earning a 2018 Fast Track Growth Brands Award.
“Exotico sits in the mid-price tier of 100% agave, which is experiencing double-digit growth,” explains Brand Manager Katie Schuette. “It is an affordable brand within that category, with vibrant packaging that consumers are drawn to on shelf. Exotico sees growth both off and on premise.”
In most markets, Exotico is slightly more affordable than the category leader within the price segment, she adds.
Programming remains focused in key markets like Texas, Colorado, Arizona and California. The brand has also activated at taco festivals countrywide, and will continue retail support for Cinco de Mayo and Day of the Dead.
Roca Patron launched in 2014 as Patron Spirits’ first line produced entirely through the tahona process. These expressions are also bottled at a higher proof. Roca Patron reached 50,000 cases in 2017, winning a Rising Star Growth Brands Award.
“We made the decision to launch while looking at the evolving consumer palate,” explains Lee Applbaum, Patron Spirits CMO. “People can now better appreciate an agave spirit’s vegetal flavors, and that this is a tahona-only product.”
But don’t expect a TV spot. The nuances of a two-ton, volcanic-rock tahona wheel are a bit much for 30 seconds or less. Instead, marketing will focus on print, digital, events and brand activations.
“Our ambition is to have hundreds of thousands of cases of Roca Patron moved each year,” Applbaum says. “We believe there is a consumer need on the global level for a tahona-only tequila.”
Launched in 2015, this Constellation Brands line grew 12.5% last year, reaching 45,000 cases while earning a Rising Star Growth Brands Award. The demo “tends to skew male, higher income and 30-to-50 years old,” explains Carl Evans, Constellation Brands VP of marketing for spirits.
“More and more people appreciate quality tequila and understand the benefits of using 100% Blue Weber Agave,” he adds, “as well as certified organic ingredients to enhance the flavor profile and overall experience of the tequila.”
Casa Noble tapped into the ultra-luxury trend in 2016 with its Selección del Fundador series. This includes Alta Belleza, retailing for $1,200, and Selección del Fundador Volume II, SRP around $1,499. Only 300 bottles of the 20-year-old spirit were released.
Diageo’s DeLeón grew 25% last year for 25,000 cases, winning a Rising Star Growth Brands Award.
The line re-launched in 2017 by placing its Platinum and Reposado variants in the super-premium tier, while focusing marketing efforts in NY, DC, LA, Chicago, Houston and Miami. After all, the brand’s demo is “urban, multicultural millennials,” explains Conley Fitzpatrick, DeLeón brand manager.
Promotions included Deleon 100, which identified up-and-coming artists, musicians and stylists, promoted through a partnership with Billboard Magazine. “We remain focused on working with local influencers and taste-makers,” Fitzpatrick says.
Another focus is the holiday season. “Deleon is a natural fit for gifting with a beautiful, bespoke bottle that can be engraved,” says Fitzpatrick.
Comedian and actor Cheech Marin is brand ambassador for this growing mezcal line, launched by Riviera Imports in 2015. He believes mezcal has a bright future.
“Although considered a small category, it is growing fast in popularity,” Marin says. “The volume of total mezcal imported in the U.S. is a bit under 400,000 cases a year. Shipments have roughly quadrupled over the last half-decade as it continues to expand.”
Kyle Swartz is managing editor of Beverage Wholesaler. Reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @kswartzz or Instagram @cheers_magazine. Read his recent piece Why Have Scotch Sales Fallen Flat?