Bacardi is celebrating 160 years in the spirits business, going from strength to strength to become the world’s largest privately held spirits company, according to Alexander Tomlin, senior vice president of marketing of Bacardi North America.
The company has successfully steering toward growth by investing ahead of the curve in high-growth areas, and taking a consumer-centric approach to product development and programs, he says. Here’s more from Tomlin on what helped Bacardi become Spirits Supplier of the Year.
Beverage Dynamics: What led to the success of Bacardi in the past year?
Alexander Tomlin: In the last couple of years, there has been an increase in desire for premium quality spirits for cocktails created at home, and now as consumers return to the bars. Brand recognition goes a long way in establishing a cocktail’s premium nature, and our brands like Bacardí, Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire and others have always stood out on the back bar, and elicit deep brand trust and loyalty with our consumers.
Having a strong presence in high-growth spirits categories, such as tequila with Patrón and Cazadores, has also been fundamental to our success. Patrón has led the charge in tequila’s upward momentum, and we’ve experienced the highest volume that we’ve ever seen.
The ready to drink (RTD) or canned cocktail category is a space that we’ve continued to invest heavily in. We’re staying ahead of the curve with new flavors and variants that excite our premium prepared cocktail consumers, with a focus on natural, real ingredients and refreshing flavors like those in Bacardí real rum canned cocktails, Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic RTD, and Cazadores 100% agave tequila RTDs.
As the non-alcoholic or low-alcohol (NoLo) space continues to soar, we’re evolving our spirits portfolio within this category. Last year, we launched Grey Goose Essences as a new line of low-ABV spirits. We also recently introduced the non-alcoholic spirits Martini Vibrante and Floreale.
BD: What challenges did Bacardi have to overcome?
AT: From the start of the pandemic, we remained committed to our partner accounts by supporting them with innovative solutions and dedicated commercial resources. Our teams helped the on-trade to enable ready to go cocktails, create outdoor experiences, implement QR-code menus and more.
We had begun our e-commerce journey before 2020 and were ready to go as people’s desire to buy online was growing. Thanks to our ongoing partnerships with e-tailers and our distributors, we were able to leverage online platforms to communicate, educate and sell our brands with the click of a button. In just the first months of the pandemic, what we would have expected in one month of sales, we delivered in just one week.
BD: What brands led the way in terms of innovation and sales growth?
AT: In the U.S., depletion of Bacardí rum is up since last year, with the Bacardí Premium range, Bacardí Real Rum Canned Cocktails and Bacardí Spiced leading the charge. We’re seeing growth in the rum category compared to two years ago, specifically in the off-premise, which tells us people are choosing rum when they’re heading to the liquor store, or buying from on-demand delivery services like Drizly or ReserveBar.
With ultra-premium spirits up 17%, we’ve seen a lot of opportunity in this space to educate consumers and introduce them to our more exclusive variants, such as the Bacardí Reserva Ocho Cask Finish series and the Angel’s Envy limited-edition expressions, three of which we released in the past year.
The vodka category is on fire with Grey Goose taking things to the next level with triple-digit growth in on-premise sales Ñ about 30% higher than the growth of the vodka category as a whole. As the #1 vodka recommended by bartenders, Grey Goose is seeing further growth with the reopening of bars and restaurants, as consumers continue to trade up.
BD: What activation programs were most helpful in growing your brands?
AT: Late last year, we debuted Bacardí rum’s first holiday campaign in over a decade: the ‘Winter Summerland’ activation themed around bringing Caribbean warmth to the colder months. We’re now hitting ‘play’ on a summertime campaign and vibes, and sun-soaked festivities, in the brand’s colorful ‘Move Like It’s Summer’ creative ad campaign.
Bombay Sapphire leans into creativity and connection in the brand’s latest partnership with the Basquiat Estate as the ‘Official Spirits Partner’ of the Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure Exhibition. Grey Goose celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and is revisiting its roots in style, music and culture; earlier this year, it became the official spirit partner of the 64th annual Grammy Awards. And Patrón is partnering with beloved Mexican Formula 1 racing icon Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez.
BD: What do you have planned for 2022 to keep the momentum going?
AT: We just rolled out new flavor additions to our Bacardí Real Rum Canned Cocktails range — Bacardí Piña Colada and a brand-new Mojito Variety Pack with new Mango Mojito and Strawberry Mojito variants. In addition, we will release the next limited-edition variant in our Bacardí Reserva Ocho Cask Finish series.
Last year, we announced the limited-edition launch of Bacardí Reserva Ocho Sherry Cask Finish, as the start of a five-year program that will see a new cask finish released annually until 2025. Each year, a base of Bacardí Reserva Ocho will be finished in a different type of barrel, resulting in different flavor profiles and notes.
We’ve introduced a new Ranch Water RTD beverage to our Cazadores portfolio of 100% agave authentic Mexican canned cocktails. The latest flavor, inspired by the Texas drink, joins the lineup of three additional Tequila Cazadores’ RTD cocktails, including the beloved Margarita, Spicy Margarita and Paloma, which launched nationally last year.
Melissa Dowling is editor of Cheers magazine, our on-premise sister publication. Contact her at email@example.com, and read her recent piece, Announcing Our 2022 Growth Brands Hall of Famers.