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Can we not tho

Tim Nelson
May 01, 2018

Vodka sales aren’t what they used to be. At a time when more and more millennials are trending towards “mindful drinking,” brands that aren’t Tito’s (which is apparently gluten free?) are struggling to pull out of the slump. A recent announcement suggests Diageo-owned Ketel One will try to make more profits by selling less vodka, but probably not quite how you’d think.

In an effort to appeal to today’s more health-oriented drinkers, Ketel One will soon sell something akin to "diet vodka." Dubbed Ketel One Botanical, the 30 percent alcohol by volume spinoff has 73 calories in a 1.5 ounce shot, less than what you’d find in normal Ketel one and a 5 ounce glass of white wine. Available in three effervescent flavors (cucumber and mint, peach and orange blossom, and grapefruit and rose), it seems destined for breezy summer cocktails.

In an ironic twist, Ketel One’s latest offering technically isn’t even vodka at all. US and EU rules stipulate that distilled spirits have to be 40% alcohol by volume to qualify as vodka (and 37.5 percent if it’s flavored). The Diageo brand will have to clarify that Ketel One Botanical is instead simply “made with vodka.”  

In this climate, though, distancing itself from vodka that might not be such a bad idea. Ketel One’s North American sales slipped 13% during the back half of 2017 from the year prior. Ciroc and Smirnoff, the other vodka brands in the Diageo portfolio, saw sales downturns of 11 percent and 2 percentrespectively over that same period.  

By repackaging its vodka as something different, Diageo hopes Botanical can make inroads with younger, female-skewing set of consumers who might otherwise opt for wine. According to the Wall Street Journal, Ketel One is already planning to market Botanical as the base ingredients in a lighter take on the vodka soda.

“There’s huge growth in vodka soda in America, particularly with women,” Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes said on an investor call. “A lot of that consumption is moving away from wine and we’ve got a targeted campaign against it.”

Time will tell if offering vodka-but-not-really-vodka will help Diageo revive interest in the category, but you can’t blame them for trying.

 

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