Spirits

Diet Vodka? Finally!

06 May, 2018

Michelob Ultra had been around for 15 years before they changed their marketing to healthier markets and then went on a sever quater run "largest share gainer" in the U.S. (a 27% sales increase in three years). And if you're in Vodka, you know the surge to market Tito's has had with the seemingl healthier marketing moniker "handmade vodka" label boasting a gluten free vodka solution. Now liquor giant Diageo is stepping into the "healthier world of vice" to sell vodka with less alcohol, lower calories as it seeks to reverse sales slump.

Diageo, the world's largest liquor maker, said it is launching a botanical version of Ketel One with 30% alcohol by volume. The new drink doesn't meet the definition of vodka under U.S. and European regulations, which mandate that neutral distilled spirits must be bottled at 40% alcohol by volume and flavored ones at 37.5%. Instead, Diageo will market the new Ketel One as "made with vodka."

cucumber 
Ketel One and other big vodka brands have been losing market share to Fifth Generation Inc.-owned Tito's Handmade vodka, which is made from corn and is advertised as gluten-free. Tito's market share by volume stood at 8.1% for the four weeks to March 24, up from 6.1% a year earlier, according to data from Bernstein. Ketel One's market share was 1.7%, down from 1.8%.
 
Diageo, which owns Smirnoff and Ciroc vodkas and co-owns Ketel One with the Nolet family, is hoping the new drink taps into the demand for healthier drinks. It says a 1.5 oz. shot of Ketel One Botanical will have 73 calories, 40% less than in a 5 oz. glass of white wine and 25% less than in a shot of regular Ketel One.
 
Ketel One Botanical will retail for a suggested price of $24.99 for a 750- milliliter bottle, the same as a bottle of Ketel One Vodka.

grapefruit
 
For the six months to Dec. 31, Ketel One's net sales in North America dropped 13% from a year earlier excluding currency fluctuations, while Ciroc's net sales fell 11%. Sales of Smirnoff-still the market leader-were down 2%.
 
In its previous attempts to bolster its vodka brands, Diageo has sponsored music festivals, marketed to the U.S.'s gay and lesbian community and experimented with flavors. In 2016 it began selling Smirnoff infused with real fruit. More recently, the London-based company has cut prices on Ketel One to try to compete with Tito's.
 
The launch of Ketel One Botanical is the first time Diageo has sold a low-alcohol version of the vodka brand. It comes as many consumers, and especially millennials, are cutting back on alcohol, both by having fewer servings at a time and switching to weaker drinks.
 
A 2016 survey from research firm GlobalData found 54% of Americans between 25 and 34 years old were actively trying to cut back on alcohol, a higher percentage than were trying to consume less fat, carbohydrates and sugar. While beer sales have been slumping, some of the bright spots have been sales of lower-alcohol, lower-calorie brews such as Anheuser-Busch InBev SA's Michelob Ultra.
 
Diageo is hoping the new Ketel One will appeal to women and in particular wine drinkers. It plans to market it as something to be drunk in a wine glass with soda, ice and fresh herbs or fruit. It will come in three flavors: cucumber and mint, peach and orange blossom, and grapefruit and rose.

peach
 
"There's huge growth in vodka soda in America, particularly with women," said Diageo Chief Executive Ivan Menezes on an investor call earlier this year. "A lot of that consumption is moving away from wine and we've got a targeted campaign against it."
 
Not everyone is as optimistic. Bernstein analyst Trevor Stirling said it is unlikely the latest offering will have a meaningful impact on sales. "Innovation like this rarely pulls a brand around," he said.