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The first-ever USA Spirits Ratings competition wrapped up in San Francisco this year with a number of Gold Medal winners, but the real star of the show was the “Spirit of the Year” for 2018 – Coppercraft Distillery Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Not only did this spirit obtain the highest overall score of 95 points in the competition, but it also scored highly across all three criteria - Quality, Value and Packaging - used to evaluate the spirits in competition. For the spirits trade, the message should be clear: it’s time to stock up on award-winning craft whiskies such as Coppercraft Distillery Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
For any participant in the spirits trade, one major factor to keep in mind is the overall sales potential of a product. And that’s why the USA Spirits Ratings includes three different judging criteria – Quality, Value and Packaging – that correlate very highly with overall sales performance. In short, the types of spirits that win “Spirit of the Year” are those that have proven commercial viability.
When deciding which products to carry as inventory or as part of a portfolio, one key consideration is the sales potential of a product. No retail store wants to carry a product that languishes on its shelves, no matter how high the quality of the liquid inside the bottle might be. And, similarly, no distributor or wholesaler wants to add an unproven product to a portfolio that doesn’t already come with a strong sales baseline as well as a built-in consumer audience.
That’s why the judges of the USA Spirits Ratings place so much emphasis on the Packaging of the product. Given today’s competitive marketplace, every top-selling product needs to come with a unique brand story or some type of overall narrative that will resonate with potential consumers. And, importantly, this brand perception must match with what’s inside the bottle – no amount of slick marketing is going to make up for the fact that a product is lacking in quality.
Another of the judging criteria is Value, or how attractively a product is priced vis-à-vis its rivals in the marketplace. Consumers are now more sophisticated than ever, and very good at evaluating relative value. They know when they are getting “value,” even when paying $30, $40 or $50 for a premium spirit. And so, it makes sense that the products that are most likely to become sales “hits” are those that manage to convey that value to consumers.
The combination of all three of these factors is what leads to the ultimate commercial viability of the “Spirit of the Year.” As evaluated by a team of high-profile judges, the “Spirit of the Year” is the one star of the show that scores most highly across all three criteria that are most closely linked to overall sales performance.
One great way to diversify your overall portfolio is by stocking up on the “Spirit of the Year.” To see how this works in practice, consider the 2018 “Spirit of the Year” – an artisanal, craft-distilled whiskey from Michigan-based Coppercraft Distillery. This product offers two types of diversification. For one, it offers a craft-distilled alternative to the major whiskey brands. And, secondly, it offers diversification within even the craft whiskey segment of the market. At a time when most people think of craft whiskey as coming from either Tennessee or Kentucky, you can achieve immediate diversification by stocking up on a craft whiskey from Michigan.
In today’s marketplace, the ultimate success or failure of a spirit is based on its ability to appeal to a certain demographic group or audience. And when it makes this connection, the result can be a spectacular increase in both online buzz and also overall sales. It means you’ve found a spirit that people are going to buy, over and over again. And, best of all - once consumers have confidence and trust in a spirit brand, they will want to experience more from that brand, and that also has the net result of boosting sales of related products in your portfolio. For craft distillers, for example, it might mean that an award-winning bourbon has the potential to drive sales of other distilled spirits, such as vodka or rum.
The best part about stocking up on the “Spirit of the Year” is that you are not just boosting your top-line sales, you are also improving your margins and growing your bottom line. Adding the “Spirit of the Year” can be a tremendous boost to your bottom line. That’s because you are adding a spirit that essentially sells itself. Instead of eroding overall profitability by diverting resources to sales and marketing, you know that you have a product that consumers are going to want to buy. And that’s good news for your bottom line.
Consumer trends can change quickly, and when they do, it’s important to be able to find the exact products that can fill these new product “holes.” One important trend, for example, is the craft distillery trend. This has become a unique, nationwide phenomenon, with craft distillers in places like Colorado now bursting onto the regional (and sometimes national) scene.
One way to spot these trends before they become mainstream is by keeping a careful eye on the winners of the USA Spirits Ratings competition. At this year’s competition, for example, some of the more noteworthy Gold medal-winning products in the running to be named “Spirit of the Year” included several craft-distilled spirits from U.S. producers, a Forest Raspberry Spirit from a German spirits distiller, a Fusion Single Malt from India, an organic vodka from the Netherlands. These products are all emblematic of the unique, creative and cutting-edge spirits that are attracting the attention of commercial buyers and members of the spirits trade.
Putting it all together, stocking up on USA Spirits Ratings’ “Spirit of the Year” is a great way to boost top line revenue, increase bottom line revenue and improve overall portfolio diversification.