When vodka comes to mind, it’s easy to think basic and mainstream — not refined and classy.

But if spirits snobs think “flavorless” vodka doesn’t have a place in the craft cocktail era of 2019, they’re very wrong.

Spirits sales are rising, with millennials driving the uptick. Even with this group’s desire to experiment and try new things, vodka remains the king of the spirits. Let’s examine this drink’s staying power and how spirits suppliers and distributors can capitalize on it.

Super premium vodka

Spirits now make up 37.4% of the alcohol beverage market. And vodka reigned as the sector’s largest hit, representing one-third of all spirits sales.

Vodka revenue was up 2.9% from last year, raking in a total of $6.4 billion in sales. Craft distilleries are also on the rise, with about 4,000 cases sold in 2017.

When millennial drinkers buy spirits, they tend to reach for the premium brands.

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“We are seeing a resurgence in the Super Premium Category in Vodka after a few years of stagnating,” Jonathan Hemi, Managing Partner of Crystal Head Vodka told Forbes. “Clean, additive free, high quality liquid is where we are seeing opportunities as well in different expressions through different types of grains.”

Popular US brands, such as Tito’s and Smirnoff use corn as their base, because there’s so much of it grown here in the states. Premium brands looking to enhance their brand’s flavor profile are using different grains, such as Canadian corn. Some brands, such as Black Cow, are taking even greater liberties and distilling their vodka from milk.

Other brands are using copper pot stills, Icelandic water, or unique filtration regimens to create a more distinguished taste to their vodka. Of course, crafting the vodka from scratch also provides a unique flavor– it’s just time consuming.

How brands are marketing vodka differently to grow sales

 While vodka perennially proves itself to be a top-seller, distilleries and brands are still feeling like they need to prove why vodka is worthy of a sip.

Millennial drinkers care about the ingredients that go into their drinks and the experience they have drinking it.

Brands like Grey Goose used to tout their connection to the French Countryside as a selling point. But consumers were leaving Grey Goose on the shelves.

In an attempt to capitalize on customers caring about the experience of how they drink, Grey Goose launched a “Live Victoriously” campaign geared toward how and when the drink should be enjoyed.

Live Victoriously differs greatly from our previous creative work, most of which have leaned into the brand’s French heritage,” Lee Applbaum, Chief Marketing Officer for Grey Goose told Forbes. “We pinned our marketing efforts on special occasions where people tended to indulge and trade up to super-premium products. Live Victoriously demonstrates that luxury and relatability are not binary brand behaviors — they can and should co-exist.”

The Live Victoriously campaign is expansive, including 15 and 30-second television spots, events, video and print ads. Some of the TV ads have the tagline “Live every day like it’s your birthday,” merging the idea of a special occasion and usual drinking behaviors.

Grey Goose also relaunched its social media platforms to be more immersive and to focus on this new mission.

What your brand can do to take advantage of this trend

If your brand’s portfolio includes vodka, now is the time to invest attention and money to grow sales.

If you have a craft vodka, have sales representatives train bartenders and liquor store workers to tout the ingredients to customers.

Consider creating a marketing campaign and signs that demonstrate the great experience that comes when drinking your vodka. Brands can also suggest different unique cocktails to add vodka to, helping stir customer’s creativity.

Spirits distributors can take advantage by examining the data and determining which types of vodka are growing in sales – or projected to grow in sales – and making sure to include those brands in your portfolio.

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Meredith Galante