Our 2020 Growth Brands Awards recognize the fastest-growing wine and spirits in America. In our last issue we highlighted the many winners across multiple categories. Now, we zero in on a select handful that has gone above and beyond in achieving sustained success.
To make our Growth Brands Hall of Fame, a brand must win at least 15 Growth Brands Awards, which have presented annually since 1997. Our two Hall of Famers in 2020 are Ruffino and Grand Marnier, which combined have attracted consumer loyalty for centuries. Below, we speak with both brands about what has allowed them to succeed for so many decades, and beyond.
Hall of Famer Ruffino
Beverage Dynamics: Why has Ruffino grown so consistently in recent time?
Julie Rossman, VP of Global Marketing, Ruffino Wines: Ruffino’s incredible growth can be attributed to its global reputation as an authentic, consistent Italian brand, with quality that consumers can depend on, and something to please everyone’s taste.
Not only is Italy the largest imported wine segment — showing accelerated growth in recent periods, up 9.4% over the past year period — but Ruffino also has leadership across multiple Italian high-growth categories, as the number one Italian sparkling rosé, number one luxury chianti, number two prosecco and number two premium pinot grigio. The Ruffino brand is growing 7.1%, outpacing total wine growth over the past year period.
BD: How has the brand adapted with the changing wine market?
JR: With more than 140 years of crafting beautiful Italian wine, we’ve learned how to adapt to changing consumer interests while remaining true to our heritage and our vision.
Recently, consumers have embraced the convenience of smaller-format sizes that offer portion control and accessibility across consumption occasions. To meet our consumers where they are, we’ve introduced our widely popular Ruffino Prosecco in 187-ml. and 375-ml. sizes, as well as our beloved Ruffino Sparkling Rosé in a 187-ml. size.
Additionally, we’ve seen rising health awareness fueling demand for more moderate and wholesome products coupled with a trend of consumers trading up, and are excited to be introducing Ruffino Prosecco made with organic grapes this spring! To provide consumers with a high-quality offering that meets their needs, Ruffino — the number two prosecco brand in the U.S. — has launched a prosecco made with organic grapes: one of the first organic proseccos on the U.S. market.
BD: What promotions and marketing has Ruffino run in the past year?
JR: Ruffino had an exciting year last year with several ‘firsts’ and major investments that will continue to push the brand forward as a category leader. During the 2019 holiday season, Ruffino introduced the brand’s first-ever TV campaign for prosecco, with additional digital and social campaigns that grew awareness during the key end of year selling season.
Additionally, Ruffino debuted new packaging for our sparkling tier with impactful orange display pieces and POS in store. We brought the brand’s spirit to life online through Ruffino’s first social media-influencer campaign, and in person through an engaging sampling activation at Kaaboo Music Festival in San Diego that saw heavy foot traffic.
BD: Has COVID-19 affected the brand?
JR: First, our thoughts are with the many individuals and businesses impacted by this awful virus in Italy, the U.S. and across the world, and with our team members here and abroad. Ruffino Cares Italy donated $250,000 to provide much-needed support to healthcare professionals in the Veneto region to meet the demand of patients in need of critical care.
With the Italian import category being one of the fastest-growing import wine regions in the U.S., there continues to be a steady demand and consumer appetite for Ruffino wines — headlined by the growth of prosecco — and we do not anticipate this trend slowing down in the coming months. In the U.S., we launched an ecommerce campaign with Drizly to address the recent surge in online sales demand, and to enable our loyal consumers to have their favorite Ruffino wines delivered safely to their homes with same day delivery.
Hall of Famer Grand Marnier
BD: Why has Grand Marnier grown so consistently in recent time?
Alejandra Pena, Senior Category Marketing Director, European Icons: The success of the House of Grand Marnier has been driven by a focus on the brand’s heritage as a premium spirit.
Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge, our core variant, dates back to 1880, with a one-of-a-kind liquid — 51% fine Cognac blended with bitter orange liqueur — and an iconic bottle recognized throughout the world. We have found that Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge is an excellent point of entry for consumers looking to explore the nuanced flavors of Cognac and bitter orange liqueur.
Due to the Cognac base, Grand Marnier is one of the few liqueurs that can be enjoyed both neat and in a classic cocktail. Grand Marnier is a unique spirit with a beautiful history, and its versatility means that everyone has a different experience with the brand. Some people think of Grand Marnier as a way to elevate a margarita, while others enjoy it as an end-of-shift treat between the front and back of the house. Some enjoy it after a meal on the rocks as one would sip a fine Cognac. The versatility of Grand Marnier is what makes it unique, and as people are discovering it through the rise of cocktail culture, they’re seeing the possibilities of the liquid.
Lastly, we take great pride in our range of offerings within the House of Grand Marnier. As our consumers grow with the brand, we see many shifting from the classic cocktails made with Cordon Rouge to neat pours of Cuvée Louis-Alexandre or Centenaire, both which are part of our Cuvée Collection. Our 1880 and Quintessence bottles are also beloved amongst our most seasoned Cognac connoisseurs. Having a bottle at home can be seen as a point of pride or the mark of a special occasion.
BD: How has Grand Marnier maintained such loyal fans?
AP: Across the spirits industry, we have seen a shift towards premiumization and a ‘quality over quantity’ mentality. Consumers are expressing an affinity for high-quality spirits, and with our cuvée collection being composed of over 82% Cognac, this is something that Grand Marnier provides.
There is a sophistication to ordering a neat pour or a simple, classic cocktail that today’s consumers are largely favoring. For us, that means an increased interest in cocktails such as the Grand Sidecar and the Grand 75, where our blend of Cognac and orange liqueur naturally complement the flavors of these classic recipes. This is of course playing out in real time across the bars and restaurants that serve Grand Marnier, where we are also seeing this shift permeate across social media. People are posting beautiful cocktails and refined pours of premium spirits as a point of pride, using those posts to build their social identity as polished, high-minded consumers.
BD: What promotions and marketing has Grand Marnier run in the past year?
AP: Our focus continues to be leaning into our heritage, and educating people of the quality Cognac base.
For example, we’re elevating and reimagining classic cocktails with our signature Grand Marnier twist. Take the Grand 75: a drink that benefits from the bitter orange flavors of Grand Marnier, replacing traditional Cognac as a perfect pairing for a nice dry Champagne. Or the Grand Sidecar, which blends Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge alongside VSOP Cognac and freshly squeezed lemon, to create a bright, refreshing spin on the classic Sidecar.
We have also developed recipes for a Grand Old Fashioned and Grand Manhattan, two drinks that benefit from the bitter orange flavors of Grand Marnier. Reinforcing our luxury cues and educating consumers about our Cognac core is still at the forefront and we’ve expanded our advertising (TV, social, influencers) to build the awareness and set the stage.
With last year’s launch of Cuvée Louis-Alexandre in NYC, DC, ATL and Miami, we had great success by partnering with influencers who embody the Grand Marnier lifestyle.