Flavored vodkas are nothing new, and in fact have been common among heavy vodka-consuming nations for some time now—but according to Neil Smith, Ukraine vodka magnate, vodka flavoring is reaching whole new dimensions in 2013, with an ongoing vodka flavoring trend that has turned the industry on its head. Neil Smith, Ukraine vodka expert, is hardly alone in thinking that the current vodka flavoring trend is significant. A recent article from The Spirit Business lists some of the most significant trends in vodka flavoring. Neil Smith, Ukraine vodka producer, has weighed in on the article with a new statement to the press.
Certainly, Smith is someone who knows well what people like, when it comes to their vodka. A long-time business leader and investor, Neil Smith, currently owns many assets in Russia and Ukraine, including a major vodka manufacturer, Eastern Beverage Company. Eastern Beverage is one of the top vodka producing companies in the world.
In his new statement to the press, Smith comments on the new trends in vodka flavoring—noting that, at Eastern Beverage Company, subtlety is the name of the game. “For our customers, the main priority is subtle well-integrated flavor,” Neil Smith, Ukraine vodka producer, says. “A great example is our Birch Bud vodka, Brunki, which recently won a taste test conducted by the Financial Times. The overpowering, synthetic flavors we so often see in the market are out of the question. Only totally natural ingredients will do.”
Meanwhile, The Spirit Business notes the extent to which flavored vodkas have taken precedence. “If Willy Wonka had liked a snifter, then the world of [flavored] vodkas would have satisfied his wildest dreams,” the article opines. It goes on to note that flavoring itself is nothing new; the vodka belt countries in Eastern Europe “have a long tradition of steeping pepper, ginger, bison grass, vanilla, lemon, cherry and other fruits, roots and spices, in their [favorite] tipple. But the modern range of [flavors] now available on a commercial scale almost defies imagination.”
The biggest sellers in today’s world are, indeed, the more “mainstream” fruit- and spice-infused vodkas. With that said, the category of flavored vodkas has seen a major surge in what the article calls more “esoteric” products—which include vodkas flavored to resemble “coconut, cotton candy, black truffle, cupcake, bubble gum, green tea, marshmallow and even wild hemp seed.” There are even vodkas distilled from aromatic Vigonier grapes and infused with Kaffir Lime, already on the market.
A Growing Market
The article goes on to note the explosive growth that this category has experienced. In fact, flavored vodkas have tripled in volume over the last ten years. Meanwhile, flavored vodkas have grown to encompass 4 percent of global vodka sales, by volume, but they have captured more than 8 percent of the value of this market—a market that brings in billions of dollars each year. Thus far, these sales have been tilted toward the United States and other English-speaking nations.
The article in The Spirits Business goes on to quote Maggie Peak, the global spokesperson for Brown Forman’s vodka portfolio. “The reason why flavored vodka represents much more value than volume is because they are more skewed towards high unit value markets such as the US,” she explains. Continues Peak, “The US has been a key driver in terms of sweeter and novelty flavors and recent trends in the US show flavored vodka growing four times faster than classic.”
Candy Vodkas and the United States
Meanwhile, according to Neil Smith, vodka made to taste like different candies has proven an especially big trend in the United States. “American consumers are increasingly fond of vodka confections made to taste like their favorite sweets and desserts,” he explains. “You can see this reflected in the sheer number of big vodka producers that have joined in this trend. My business has steered clear of this, looking to satisfy the Eastern European palate for non-sweet, natural flavored vodkas.”
Indeed, according to The Spirits Business, the growth in these candy-flavored vodkas has “been fuelled by big players like Diageo whose Smirnoff has joined the fray with Fluffed Marshmallow and Whipped Cream.” Continues the article, “And, with the global vodka market performing sluggishly, the purveyors of [flavored] variants have understandably continued to invest in this category.”
Claire Smith, who heads the spirit creation and mixology department for Belvedere, also opines in the article, noting that, in the United States, there are innumerable occasions where both straight and flavored vodkas are consumed—leading to the US taking the lead in global vodka consumption.
Marketing Flavored Vodkas
According to Neil Smith, Ukraine, vodkas with additional flavoring are succeeding largely on the back of solid marketing. “These vodkas are being marketed to slightly older drinkers, who have some experience with straight vodka and are looking to branch out into something else,” he explains. “In particular, they are seeking new flavors to add to mixers and cocktails.”
Adds The Spirits Business, “Beyond the US, with its culture of mixing drinks, markets such as Canada, the UK, Western Europe and Australia are also experiencing growth in the [flavored] vodka sector, though with different patterns emerging in terms of the [flavors] and styles preferred. Here there is more emphasis on fruit and the more established spice [flavors], rather than the wackier recent entrants to the party.”
The bottom line, according to Neil Smith: “Vodka trends will continue to favor these different confections, even as many drinkers continue to keep straight, pure vodkas in business. While my team monitors this growing trend, my business sticks to its cultural routes, opting to produce subtle, non-sickly-sweet, flavor-infused vodkas.”
Neil Smith, Ukraine vodka producer, owns the Eastern Beverage Company.
In 2004, business titan Neil Smith, Ukraine vodka producer, was Head of Alternative Investments at Morley Fund Management in London where he invested more than $6 billion of principal capital with a gross exposure of over $30 billion. During this time he developed a keen interest in opportunities that existed in Russia and the CIS, and ultimately moved to Russia to set up his own investment management and debt advisory business using personal capital he had built up at Morley. Today, his most significant industrial assets include Eastern Beverage Company, one of the world’s largest vodka producers.