LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — Jack Daniel’s has been named the 2015 Supreme Brand Champion by The Spirits Business, the only dedicated international spirits magazine and website in the world.
Circulation reaches more than 50,000 spirits professionals worldwide, from the most senior drinks buyers in the on- and off-trade, through to the best known and most influential bartenders at the world’s hottest venues, including the members of our media partner, the International Bartenders Association.
The publication’s annual Brand Champions report is an exclusive in-depth analysis of the spirits selling over 1 million 9-litre cases in the last calendar year, regardless of domestic, regional or international volume.
A team of industry journalists have chosen to highlight a select number of brands that shine above the rest. This may be through outperforming their category and competition or effectively engaging consumers through new marketing initiatives – not simply based on volume growth alone.
Of the 10 Brand Champions chosen, just one has been named the Supreme winner for not only delivering robust growth but for the educational halo effect it has had on its entire category throughout 2014.
According to the publication’s website, Officer’s Choice, The Glenlivet and Glenfiddich were contenders for the Supreme Brand Champion award, an accolade that’s bestowed annually upon the brand believed to have performed the strongest and most admirably within its particular category.
But the strong performance of Jack Daniel’s in a broad number of categories helped land the Lynchburg distillery the top award.
On the face of it, the Tennessee whiskey brand grew by a modest 2 percent to 11.7 million cases, but Jack’s achievement doesn’t lie solely in its year-on-year growth. In fact, its volume gain slowed from the 5 percent delivered in 2013.
Mark McCallum, EVP, president Jack Daniel’s Brands, puts the difference down to “calculated price increases around the world” during the calendar year, which “in instances slowed the volume growth rates but overall increased the value growth”.
There’s no denying Jack Daniel’s leadership of the American whiskey category, particularly in the US, but what of its global appeal?
“An aspect of Jack Daniel’s that is particularly unique is its desirable attributes of authenticity, mixability and premiumisation,” says McCallum. “With consumers craving more and more knowledge about the origins and craftsmanship behind brands, while having different options on how and when to consume, Jack Daniel’s is well positioned to benefit from these trends.”
In a category that’s becoming more saturated by the week, Jack Daniel’s has commanded solid consumer fidelity through its allegiance to music culture, communication of its heritage, and the diversity of its portfolio which demonstrates its commitment to developing premium expressions and flavored offerings for its fan base, ultimately retaining them within the JD family.
One just has to look at the unprecedented growth of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey to understand how the strategy has paid off. The expression — now the largest flavored whiskey in the world — accounts for around 10 percent of Jack’s sales just two years after launch.
Add to the mix the hype surrounding Sinatra Select (expect a new offshoot this year), JD No.27 Gold and Tennesee Fire, and just try to argue that the brand hasn’t nailed the art of the halo effect without creating cannibalisation of the core brand.
According to The Spirits Business report, the key to the brand’s success going forward will be the ability to tread lightly with the introduction of NPDs to avoid diluting its message. McCallum claims the company’s ambitions for the year ahead will be to “continue to lead the globalisation of American whiskey and to capitalize on the continued interest in the category” by focusing on its core Black Label expression, all the while driving awareness of its premium extensions Gentleman Jack, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, and of course Tennessee Honey.
As for the concern that the rapidly expanding category could take market share from the global leader, McCallum is buoyant.
“We have seen more and more consumer groups heighten their interest in the category and the brand, which bodes well for the future,” he says. “There is without a doubt far more new entries into this category than we have ever seen which is hugely exciting for the category and the consumer.”