By Andrew Starke

The number of global liquor brands boasting elite status has fallen to just ten according to International Wine & Spirit Research (IWSR), a significant fall from 22 in 2009.

The strict criteria of IWSR’s Elite Brands and the impact of global economic crisis has taken its toll on some of the top-selling brands, with those on this year’s list generally showing better long-term resilience than some of their competitors.

Five brands have managed to earn the title of Elite Brand every year since the first list published in 2007: Jägermeister, Finlandia, Havana Club, Jameson and Buchanan’s.

The consistent top four Elite Brands – Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Absolut and Jack Daniel’s – all fell from the list in 2010 due to the effects of the global economic crisis.

Vodka has the most entrants on the list – a total of four out of 10.

This year’s Elite Brands top spot went to Nemiroff, which maintained strong growth in its top two markets – Russia and the Ukraine.

Despite a presence in over 32 countries, Nemiroff is one of the most geographically concentrated brands on the list with 92 percent of volume consumed in its top two markets.

Nemiroff first entered the list in 2008 and maintained the number five spot until climbing to number one in 2010.

Finlandia, Sobieski and Russian Standard also made the list, with Russian Standard being the only newcomer to this year’s Elite Brands.

The success of these four brands shows the continuing popularity of vodka, which has allowed them to expand in export markets.

Russian Standard was ineligible last year as 65 percent of its volume was consumed in its home market of Russia, but Russia now accounts for just 49.1 percent of global sales.

The newcomer, which launched Australia a year ago, ended the year just 21,000 cases down on 2009 volumes.

Brown-Forman’s Finlandia is on the list for the fourth consecutive year, showing the long-term potential of the brand.

Sobieski, owned by Belvédère, was one of the few brands to exhibit growth but it also managed to extend its international reach.

The success of Sobieski despite significant losses in its traditional markets of Poland and Lithuania highlights why extensive international reach is so important.

Sobieski offset the losses at home with gains of over +129 percent (330,000 cases) in the US and +39.6 percent (63,000 cases) in France.

Sobieski first appeared on the list in 2009.

Only two Scotch whiskies made the list – William Lawson’s and Buchanan’s, the only brands from Bacardi-Martini and Diageo on the list.

Buchanan’s has featured on the list since it began in 2007 while William Lawson’s entered the list in 2008.

William Lawson’s, positioned as a value Scotch in many of its main markets, saw an increase in sales of 133,000 cases, growing in all of its top 10 markets; the largest gains being in France and Russia.

William Lawson’s achieved the second-highest growth in the list after Nemiroff.

Buchanan’s showed the largest decline of the 10 current Elite Brands, but it remains on the list due to its impressive growth between 2004 and 2008.

Jägermeister comes in at number two, moving up from sixth position.

It has featured in the list since the beginning and although sales fell in 2009, its long-term growth is good.

Pernod Ricard-owned Havana Club came in at number three despite a global decline of
-3.4 percent.

Barceló is the only other rum on the list. Relaunched in 2006, Barceló has been gaining strength and grew by over 85,000 cases in 2009.

As the only company to have more than one brand on this year’s list, Pernod Ricard’s other entrant Jameson stays on the list for yet another year and was one of just five of the Elite Brands to see volume growth in 2009.

A notable absence from the list is the previous number one Elite Brand, Smirnoff, which failed to consolidate its recent success in markets such as India, Poland and Spain and witnessed huge losses in travel retail.

Absolut has also fallen from the list after a heavy drop in sales in the US and travel retail, as well as further declines in key markets such as Mexico, Germany, Spain and Greece.

Bacardi-Martini lost two brands from the list. Eristoff failed to surpass the requisite five-year growth threshold of 5 percent despite some positive activity in France, Belgium, Brazil and Australia.

After years of defying the global trend of declining gin sales, Bombay Sapphire, the only gin on the 2009 list, missed out on the 2010 list after a decline in global sales of 3,950 cases.

The IWSR’s Elite Brands Top 10 for 2010

1 Nemiroff
2 Jägermeister
3 Havana Club
4 Finlandia
5 Jameson
6 Sobieski Vodka
7 Russian Standard
8 William Lawson
9 Buchanan's
10 Barceló


The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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