Brown-Forman’s bourbon and whiskey brands continue to ride the wave of consumer premiumization as the company uses ready-to-drink Jack Daniel’s cocktails as a “consumer recruitment vehicle.”
Bourbon whiskey Woodford Reserve delivered organic net sales growth of 35% in the nine months ended Jan. 31 while the company’s premium-bourbon portfolio grew sales by 34%.
“So, the story is still true that consumers are premiumizing their purchases in spirits and that trend is still strong,” president and CEO Lawson Whiting said on an earnings call last week.
Much of Woodford Reserve’s performance was driven by increased bottling capacity following a glass shortage that had crimped sales.
The timing is fortuitous, as Brown-Forman in January renewed Woodford Reserve as the presenting sponsor of the annual Kentucky Derby horse race through 2027 and confirmed the return of Old Forester bourbon as the event’s official mint julep drink.
Woodford Reserve has been the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby since 1999 and the presenting sponsor for the past four years.
Brown-Forman has two ready-to-drink cocktail lines related to its iconic Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey that it hopes will introduce more people to the Jack Daniel’s brand.
The company was an early entrant into the RTD space when it launched Jack Daniel's Country Cocktails in the early 1990s.
Two years ago, Brown-Forman partnered with Pabst Brewing for the sales and distribution of Jack Daniel's Country Cocktails within the United States.
According to Whiting, in early February Jack Daniel's Country Cocktails was the second-fastest growing flavored malt beverage in the United States in channels tracked by NielsenIQ.
The second RTD line is Jack & Coke, in a global collaboration with Coca-Cola that recently made its debut in Mexico and is slated for an imminent U.S. launch.
It will be supported by a global advertising campaign jointly funded by Brown-Forman and Coca-Cola, aiming for “a halo effect over the entire Jack Daniel's family of brands...amplifying the trademark,” Brown-Forman executive vice president and CFO Leanne Cunninghamsaid on last week’s earnings call.
In Whiting’s words, RTDs serve as a “consumer recruitment vehicle, bringing new consumers of legal drinking age into the Jack Daniel's family as well as the marketing vehicle visibly showcasing the trademark on what we often call ‘cans in hands.’”