Our Growth Brands Awards recognize the top products and suppliers in the beverage alcohol business each year. The April issue of Beverage Dynamics magazine highlighted the fastest-growing and top-selling spirits and wine brands. Now, we honor the 2023 Growth Brands Hall of Fame entries, and Suppliers of the Year.
The 2023 Spirits Supplier of the Year is Brown-Forman, which had eight winning spirits this year. The 2023 Wine Supplier of the Year is Constellation Brands, which had five winners on the wine list. The Suppliers of the Year awards are given annually to the companies whose Growth Brands winners showed the most growth, as determined by the Beverage Information Group’s data team.
Hall of Fame brands must receive at least 15 Growth Brands Awards during the past 25 years, in any category. Entering the Hall of Fame this year are Wild Turkey, Kim Crawford and Real Sangria. Congratulations to all the winners!
The Hall of Fame Class of 2023
We have three new brands entering the Hall of Fame this year. On the spirits side, we congratulate Wild Turkey, which won an Established Growth Brand this year, and Kim Crawford and Real Sangria on the wine side.
Wild Turkey, a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, dates back to the late 1890s, but wasn’t sold under the Wild Turkey name until the early 1940s. As the legend goes, a distillery executive shared some samples of the bourbon with friends on an annual hunting trip for wild turkey, and that’s what they began calling it.
Master Distiller Jimmy Russell joined Wild Turkey in 1954; his son Eddie Russell, started at Wild Turkey in 1981 and worked his way up. Eddie Russell officially became a master distiller in 2015, making Jimmy and Eddie one of the only active father-and-son bourbon master distiller teams in the world. (Eddie’s son, Bruce Russell, now serves as national ambassador of Wild Turkey.)
The brand, which has been owned by Campari since 2009, is known for its high-rye mash bill, charred barrels and longer aging periods. It was also early to the flavored whiskey party, introducing Wild Turkey Honey liqueur in 1976. That product was renamed American Honey in 2006.
Wild Turkey in 2016 hired actor and bourbon enthusiast Matthew McConaughey as creative director and spokesperson, which helped bring in a new audience. McConaughey worked with Eddie Russell on the creations of Longbranch, a small-batch bourbon refined with Texas mesquite and American oak charcoals, released in 2018.
The Russells use their combined 100 years of collective experience at the Wild Turkey distillery to constantly innovate, from the award-winning Master’s Keep series launched in 2015 to Rare Breed Rye, which came out in 2020. The limited-edition Master’s Keep Unforgotten, the seventh offering in the annual release, was unveiled in September.
A New Zealand Wine Pioneer
When Kim Crawford and his wife, Erica, launched their winery in 1996, they couldn’t have imagined the impact the brand would make on New Zealand wine — sauvignon blanc in particular. Kim Crawford, founded in Auckland as a virtual winery, was one of the first businesses in New Zealand to source grapes through contract wineries.
The company began exporting to the U.S. in 1998 and quickly became a leader in New Zealand wine. It caught the attention of Constellation Brands, which acquired Kim Crawford in 2006.
The brand unveiled a slim can version of its sauvignon blanc in late 2019 and a ready to drink Iced Tea Wine Spritz in 2022. Also in 2022, the brand came out with a prosecco made from grapes harvested from vineyards throughout Italy’s Veneto region.
Tapping into the better-for-you beverage trend, Kim Crawford in late 2020 unveiled Kim Crawford Illuminate, a low-ABV, lower-calorie take on the company’s core sauvignon blanc and rosé expressions. The brand has also been leaning into mixology in recent years and promoting signature cocktails that use its wines.
The Real Deal
Americans first encountered sangria in 1964 when it was served at the Spanish Pavillion during the World Fair in New York, says Ricky Febres, national brand manager at Shaw-Ross International Importers. Real Sangria was one of the few ready-to-drink sangria brands available until the category exploded with new entrants flooding the market around 2015.
When Real Sangria was first imported in the 1970s, it quickly developed a strong following, recognized as authentic Spanish sangria that, to this day, delivers a consistently quality beverage true to the traditional sangrias enjoyed in Spain, Febres says. “Real” is Spanish for “Royal,” and the original recipe is the same enjoyed by the Spanish royals at their social gatherings throughout the years, the company says.
Real’s core consumers are women age 25 to 65 who enjoy gatherings with family and friends, or just want a break from a hectic everyday routine, Febres says. As the sangria started to become more popular and competitive nearly a decade ago, Real saw a younger demographic exploring the category.
The brand decided to update its label by slightly adjusting the font and pumping up the iconic orange color. The company also added a 250-ml. can and a 3L Bag-in-box format to enable consumers to enjoy Real Sangria at any drinking occasion. Real has a strong national footprint in the off-premise segment and it focuses on capturing core consumers when they are shopping through in-store displays and holiday-based promotions.
Real Sangria is one of the pillars of the Shaw-Ross International portfolio, says Febres. The brand’s strengths, market penetration and distribution give the importer a strong participation in the national account grocery and club arena, not to mention a foothold in the sangria category, as others beverage trends come and go.
Melissa Dowling is editor of Cheers magazine, our on-premise sister publication. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and read her recent piece, The 2023 Wine Growth Brands Awards: The Top Bottles.