Rum is only the latest spirit to follow the by now familiar path already taken by bourbon, Scotch, vodka and tequila — increase its market and boost sales by branching out with a step up in quality and image to superpremium levels as well as offering a variety of flavored line extensions.

The appearance of more aged, upscale premium and superpremium rums has also meant an expansion of usage occasions: in addition to the popular “Rum & Coke, Piña Colada” mentality, a segment of consumers are sipping aged rums, neat or on the rocks.

The two top-selling rums — Bacardi and Captain Morgan — are perfect examples of the increased flavor and upscale product activity. For its part, Bacardi Light is the category’s powerhouse and is the best-selling spirits brand in the U.S., with sales of almost 6 million 9-liter cases. At the same time, the brand’s phenomenal Limón line extension has been one of the most successful new product launches of the decade — after less than three full years on the market, Bacardi Limón amassed sales of 570,000 9-liter cases in 1997 nationwide, according to the Adams Media Handbook Advance 1998. And while some cannibalization of Bacardi Light can be assumed to have occurred, much ofto the Adams Media Handbook Advance 1998. And while some cannibalization of Bacardi Light can be assumed to have occurred, much of Limón’s volume has been in incremental sales captured from vodka’s huge market share, for Limón has been positioned more as an alternative to above-premium vodka than as a flavored rum, even though that’s what it is.

Now, Bacardi-Martini USA has debuted another rum line extension, in selected markets, meant to join Limón in its appeal to consumers of premium and superpremium white spirits. Exclusiv By Bacardi is a quadruple-distilled clear rum that is being touted as the first “ultra-filtered rum.” The product features a unique production process resulting in exceptional purity, the company says, while retaining the flavorful characteristics of rum. The company views it as being consumed in Martinis, straight up, on the rocks and in popular cocktails such as the Cosmopolitan and Gimlet, or mixed with juice. Exclusiv By Bacardi retails for $12.99 to $15.99, depending on the market.

In addition to Limón and Exclusiv, Bacardi-Martini continues to successfully market Bacardi Select (a medium-dark rum), Bacardi Spice, Gold, 151 and Añejo, as well as the Castillo line of White, Gold and Añejo rums.


The second best-selling rum, Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, from Seagram Americas, has been one of the fastest-growing spirits brands of the 1990s. Over the past four years, the brand has more than doubled its sales volume, surging from 820,000 9-liter cases in 1993 to 1.67 million cases in 1997. Indeed, the brand essentially created the successful spiced rum niche now crowded by a number of other brands. In fact, the brand launched its own superpremium line extension in 1996, Captain Morgan Private Stock, and last year successfully debuted Parrot Bay, another flavored rum. Seagram also markets Captain Morgan Silver Spiced Rum as well as the top-selling dark rum, Myers’s.

With both Bacardi and Captain Morgan driving the category, rum sales climbed 3.9% nationwide in 1997, to more than 13.4 million 9-liter cases, increasing its share of the total spirits market from 9.4% to 9.7%.


“What we’re seeing with rum is somewhat similar to what we’ve seen in the tequila category in terms of the move to finer, more superpremium products,” said Steve Goldstein, spokesperson for IDV North America, whose rum brands are Appleton, a superpremium Jamaican product, and Malibu, a “flavor-driven” rum that sold over half a million cases last year. “We’re seeing more of a marketing emphasis on fine, sipping rums, such as Appleton V/X or Appleton 12 Year Old, and that is how we are positioning this brand for growth in the U.S.” IDV is, according to Goldstein, “banking on the move to superpremium rums with Appleton Estate.”

Todhunter Imports is highlighting its premium and superpremium Cruzan Estate rums, made in St. Croix. The unique Cruzan Estate Single-Barrel Rum, introduced late last year, is a “sipping rum,” according to company president Thomas Valdes. It is designed to target rum consumers looking for a “very refined, brandy type product,” he added. The Single-Barrel retails for about $25, and the company plans to diversify by introducing new variations with different nuances of barrel aging.

In addition, Todhunter has updated its other upscale rum, Cruzan Estate Diamond. The brand has just debuted new, elegant packaging that features a taller 750 ml bottle with a punt at the bottom, a cork finish and capsule at the top. The new label is made of textured parchment and comes in brighter black and gold. The product is hand-blended in batches, using triple-distilled rums, in a process that marries four-year-old rums with those that have aged as long as 12 years. Estate Diamond retails for about $16.

Meanwhile, United Distillers USA (soon, along with IDV North America, to be folded into United Distillers & Vintners North America, a division of Diageo) is expanding its marketing and advertising program for its superpremium sipping rum, Pampero Aniversario. Produced in Venezuela, the product was introduced in March 1997 and is currently available in selected major markets nationwide. Emphatically high-end, a 750 ml of Pampero Aniversario retails for about $30. The new brand support comes in the form of radio and regional print advertising. Pampero is also linking up with several Venezuelan designers in a merchandising effort to help showcase the Venezuelan “passion for life,” according to a spokesperson.

“Superpremiums are the number one trend,” agreed Willie Rosell, chief operating officer for Ron Matusalem. “That’s where the growth is. Matusalem’s focus is strictly on the superpremium with our six-month-old Gran Reserva ($19.95) and Classic Black ($14.95).”

Indeed, any retailer or consumer searching to round out a boutique rum collection should consider Gosling’s Black Seal, imported from Bermuda by Miami-based Marie Brizard. A black, cognac-like rum, Gosling’s fits the above-premium mold of a rum that can be mixed but also enjoyed neat in a snifter or on the rocks. The brand has been growing at double-digit rates for several years now, with sales topping 20,000 cases.

According to Michael Avitable, Marie Brizard director of marketing, the company is promoting the brand on-premise with bar nights that feature a scratch ‘n’ win party kit, where consumers can win an embroidered denim jacket. “And for the upcoming holiday season, we’re presenting the second in a series of gift tins,” Avitable added.

Tyler Phillips, president of Angostura International, noted that the rum high end is “an area we’re looking very hard at.” Angostura produces bulk rums for Bacardi as well as a “raft” of its own brands, such as Angostura, TDL, Fernandes ’19 (Gold and White), Royal Oak, Old Oak (White and Gold) and its newest, Forres Park.

Shaw-Ross International Importers represents boutique rums like Brugal (White and Gold, from the Dominican Republic), Flor de Cana (Nicaragua), Cacique (Venezuela), Ron Viejo de Caldas (Colombia) and Ron Botran (Guatemala). Phil Consolo, senior vice president and director of marketing, said, “We find that each of the Caribbean islands that produce rum use their own water and their own style, and each is different in taste and aroma.”

Not everyone, however, is convinced that the shift to more upscale rums will result in a flood of new dollars. “It’s still a situation where Bacardi is pretty much king,” noted Harrison Jones, brand manager at Sazerac Co. “There are a couple of superpremiums fighting it out for a piece of the pie that isn’t really getting a whole lot bigger.” Sazerac handles a pair of rums, Ron Pontalba and Cockspur, which Jones said moved 6,500 cases in 1997, about 2.3% over 1996.


“The products in the premium category are changing how people conceive of consuming rum,” said Seagram’s Pat Tate-O’Connor, category manager for rums. “Rum has always been known as a mixable product. Prior to the category focusing on premium and superpremium rums, I don’t think consumers generally considered rum as a product that they could drink straight or on the rocks.”

“People are finding they can have it at cocktail hour and not just on vacation,” said Efren Puente, brand manager for Schieffelin & Somerset’s premium Ocumare Rum. “They can sip rums with a cigar, and they can have them in drinks like the Cosmopolitan or the Mojito, which is trendy now.” Ocumare is positioned above Bacardi and Captain Morgan but below the superpremium level. “We like being that bridge.” Ocumare Blanco and Añejo 750s sell for $12.99 and $14.99, respectively.


James France, brand manager for Remy Amerique’s Mount Gay Barbados Rum, feels the flavored line extensions are “invigorating the category as a whole. That’s where some of the new growth seems to be coming from.” He explained that when Malibu and Captain Morgan started battling it out, those competitive sparks helped ignite the flavor explosion.”

“Consumers are dictating it,” said Tate-O’Connor. “They are looking for flavor differences, things that mix well, even some items that might be considered convenience items. It makes their mixing of cocktails easier.”

Several brands of spiced rum originally followed Captain Morgan to market, including Admiral Nelson’s Spiced Rum, from The David Sherman Corporation, Ronrico Spiced, from Jim Beam, and Bacardi Spice from Bacardi-Martini, USA.

Such flavor extensions can work, noted France, as long as the mother brand has large enough consumer franchise to sustain line them. Mount Gay sold about 120,000 cases last year, less than 1% of the category. It is produced in four varieties: Extra Old, Sugar Cane Rum, Special Reserve and Eclipse.

“What we’re seeing are incremental increases,” said Goldstein. “What appears to be happening is that the flavors are bringing new consumers into the rum category and serving as a bridge to the more serious rums.”

Tate-O’Connor said Captain Morgan’s flavor roll-outs have provided added sales and hardly cannibalized the original brand. In fact, Parrot Bay has doubled its projected sales within its
first year. “Relatively speaking, Captain Morgan is a very young product [introduced in the mid-1980s], and it has a long way to go in growth. It seems to be bringing in new customers every day. The flavors bring in different customers and appeal to our current franchise, as well.”

Todhunter’s Cruzan line features four flavors: banana, pineapple, coconut and Junkanu, a proprietary citrus flavor.


“Once you pursue the idea of superpremiums, where consumers are paying more for something, education is important,” said Bob Kopach, director of marketing communications for Jim Beam Brands, marketers of Ronrico (Gold and Silver), Palo Viejo, Pusser’s and Don Q Gold and Cristal, a superpremium that retails for $15.99. “And that’s across the board for any superpremium product, education for both the consumer and the trade.”

“Especially when you come out with different flavors, you’ve got to explain to the consumer why he’s paying this price for this product versus that product,” said Tate-O’Conner. “They have to have an explanation as to what goes into making that product.”

So, faced with comprehensive marketing programs and more variety than ever before, suppliers hope consumers will do to rum what they have already done with other categories: bring new interest, new enthusiasm and most of all, new revenue to stores across the country.

Howard Riell is a veteran business reporter who is a contributing editor to Beverage & Food Dynamics and Cheers magazines.


(Thousands of 9-Liter Cases)
Brand Supplier/Importer 1996 1997p % Change
Bacardi Bacardi-Martini USA 6,525 6,600 1.2%
Captain Morgan Seagram Americas 1,330 1,675 25.9%
Castillo Bacardi-Martini USA 935 960 2.7%
Malibu IDV North America 489 536 9.6%
Ronrico Jim Beam Brands 558 503 -9.9%
Myers’s Seagram Americas 285 277 -2.8%
Monarch Monarch Import 157 155 -1.3%
Mount Gay Rémy Amerique 103 118 14.6%
Ron Matusalem Matusalem & Co. 125 90 -28.0%
World Famous Charles Jacquin et Cie 75 82 9.3%
Leading Brands 10,582 10,996 3.9%
Other 2,416 2,442 1.0%
Total Rum 12,998 13,438 3.4%
(p) 1997 Projection.Source: Adams Liquor Handbook 1998

Marketing & Promotions

Strategies for getting the word out about rum during the rest of 1998 are as individual as the products themselves. A sampling includes:

  • 6806RUM2The “Bacardi Adventures” program kicks off with the Sailing sweepstakes that runs through June. Consumers can enter the sweepstakes via mail-in entry forms from case card displays and other p-o-s materials, where legal.
  • For the remainder of 1998, marketing for Malibu will focus on its Caribbean heritage and imagery. The company recently kicked off its Malibu “We Be Jammin'” Party Tour in Miami. The promotion revolves around a bus that will bring the brand’s Caribbean imagery — including a steel drum orchestra — across the country to spur trial and increase awareness.
  • For the rest of the year, Mount Gay will produce more promotions locally and nationally, and offer a substantial increase in p-o-s materials. “And we’ll be promoting year-round rather than just having a big spike in the summer,” said brand manager James France.
  • Seagram Americas has been merchandising both Captain Morgan Original Spiced and Captain Morgan’s Parrot Bay with several on-premise programs, including the “Captain’s Clue” promotion and Parrot Bay T-shirts and rocks glasses.
  • Angostura plans to use cut crystal glasses in a Christmas pack later this year with Royal Oak. Cricket also remains an area of promotional focus.
  • Ocumare is taking part in ScanPromote in Florida. The promotion is “basically a way to get the retailers who scan to feature Ocumare in displays and ads,” said brand manager Efren Puente. He may do a gift pack for the fall/winter holidays.
  • Ron Matusalem will direct its promotional efforts at retailers for the remainder of 1998, offering them a Spanish cedar, 100-cigar humidor and a high end leather briefcase.
  • The Rums of Puerto Rico program, part of a division of a government agency called the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company, is using a three-phase print advertising campaign to help promote its 11 brands (Bacardi, Captain Morgan, Don Q, Boca Chica, Granado, Castillo, Palo Viejo, Ron Bocoy, Ron Llave, Ronrico and Ron del Barrilito). The first phase, which broke last November, placed ads bearing photos of two drinks — rum and tonic and gold rum on the rocks — under the tagline, “Puerto Rico has been producing the finest rums for over 400 years.” The second phase included Generation-Xers enjoying the rum in the photo. “We had not had models in our ads since 1984,” noted Rums of Puerto Rico director Maria Pico. The third phase, which kicked in this past February, features Bacardi and Captain Morgan.


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