Vodka vs Whisky: Top 3 Reasons for the Shift in U.S. Sales

Sometimes, I feel I am the only advocate of vodka left. I’ve had some backup with U.S. sales and with the recent book by Victorino Matus, I didn’t feel so alone in the world.

Or so I thought.

That all changed this week when it was released that whisky has overtaken vodka in U.S. sales. Which makes this little tidbit all that more interesting: Vodka has overtaken whisky sales in the UK.

While Whisky usually costs more than vodka and is driving the sales price up, the biggest volume drivers are large brands that cost less. If pricing isn’t the issue, what caused this shift of power?

1) Flavors. The vodka category has been counting on new flavors to drive sales. Everyone and their vodka brother had a flavor, some good*, some bad. Whisky has jumped on the bandwagon, creating varying flavors, some good, some bad. But that has allowed for the category to increase space on shelves.

2) Women. Females are the main purchaser of alcohol in the home. There is the generalization that women’s palates tend to favor the sweet over the bitter (not me, my friend!) and that is why vodka tended to be a favorite. Now with whiskies playing up the flavor and capitalizing on the cool effect of Mad Men, women are intrigued and thirsty for more!

3) Millennials. These youngsters are all about trying new things. While Gen X-ers and Boomers stick with their favorite brands, Millennials branch out and seek new experiences based on peer recommendations. Whisky brands have gone after this generation with a vengeance in marketing and, of course, social media.

With new products being introduced, whisky sales are sure to climb even higher in the next year. In full disclosure, I am a whisky drinker – my soulmate is Johnnie Walker – so I am happy for whisky trending up. I just wonder what’s going to be the next powerhouse in five years. Leave your guesses in the comments section.

*Van Gogh Vodka is a client at PadillaCRT.

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