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Top 10 most powerful drinks brands

This year’s Drinks Business Power Brands Report shows plenty of movers and shakers across every category in what has been a turbulent year for drinks, as Richard Woodard discovers.

Compiled by the drinks business together with Intangible Business, the top 100 Power Brands shows that only 23 brands suffered case sale declines. Focus on the top 15 and you’ll see that they put on a combined 4.4m cases last year. But, even as we hail this positive general trend, one brand stands head and shoulders above the rest: Johnnie Walker.

The full report is published in this month’s drinks business magazine. Please note, only international brands with a global distribution are featured in this report.

Scroll through for this year’s top 10 Power Brands…


Nearly 200 of the largest brands in the wine and spirits industries were scored by nine panelists to derive a list of the 100 most powerful alcoholic drinks brands. Power is defined by a brand’s ability to generate value for its owner. Value is classified by a series of measures as identified below.

Hard measures

• Share of market: volume-based measure of market share

• Brand growth: projected growth based on five years’ historical data and future trends

• Price positioning: a measure of a brand’s ability to command a premium • Market scope: the number of markets in which the brand has a significant presence

Soft measures

• Brand awareness: a combination of both prompted and spontaneous awareness

• Brand relevancy: capacity to relate to the brand and a propensity to purchase

• Brand heritage: a brand’s longevity and a measure of how it is embedded in local culture

• Brand perception: loyalty and how close a strong brand image is to a desire for ownership

A panel independently ranked each brand out of 10 on the above measures (10 = high, 0 = low). The scores were aggregated and averaged to reach a total score for each brand. A total score was achieved by multiplying a brand’s weighted volume by its brand score (a derivative of the eight measures of brand strength), within a defined range. The weighting is designed to adjust the volumes to a comparable level.

10. Ballantine’s

Scotch whisky brand Ballantine’s opens the top 10 this year, its total score slipping by just 1%. It says much for the inherent strength of the Scotch whisky category that the downturn in China – which has hit a number of leading brands including Johnnie Walker, Chivas Regal and Ballantine’s – has failed to give its numbers a noticeable dent.

Sub category: Blended Scotch 

Owner: Pernod Ricard 


Total score: 21.7% 

Change: -1%

Brand score: 62% 

Change: 0%

9. Chivas Regal

Chivas Regal managed to maintain its ninth place position, despite its total score dropping by 4% on last year.

Sub category: Blended Scotch    

Owner: Pernod Ricard 


Total score: 27.3%

Change: -4%

Brand score: 62% 

Change: -8%

8. Captain Morgan

Captain Morgan continues to eat into its leadership margin, bursting through the 10m-case barrier in 2013 with its mastery of the spiced rum segment. It maintained its position with little change to its total score, other than a slight 1% uplift. Nonetheless, the Diageo brand remains well over 8m cases behind its main rival Bacardi.

Sub category: Rum/cane

Owner: Diageo

Country: Dominican Republic 

Total score: 32.5%

Change: 1%

Brand score: 71% 

Change: 0%

7. Absolut

With no exponential growth in Asia to ease the pressure, the ultra-competitive US vodka market has become a battleground where the chosen weapon is often price. Absolut has the muscle to maintain and even increase its volumes – but risks losing some of its status in the process.

Sub category: Swedish vodka

Owner: Pernod Ricard

Country: Sweden  

Total score: 32.9%

Change: -2%

Brand score: 64%  

Change: -6%

6. Martini Vermouth

Bacardi’s second most significant brand, Martini saw a drop in its total score of 2% and was the only top 10 brand to have dropped its overall position falling from 4th to 6th. However its decline is more the result of others’ growth, rather than any serious slump.

Sub category: Light aperitif 

Owner: Bacardi Martini

Country: Italy

Total score: 35.7%

Change: -2%

Brand score: 67% 

Change: 2%

5. Hennessy

In what was a generally bad year for Cognac brands thanks to China, Hennessy has stayed positive thanks to its strong position in the robust US market. It held onto its 5th place position with its total score dropping by just 1%.

Sub category: Cognac

Owner: LVMH

Country: France

Total score: 35.9%

Change: -1%

Brand score: 70% 

Change: -5%

4. Jack Daniel’s

The main contender to challenge the top three is now Jack Daniel’s jumping two places this year. Of JD Intangible Business joint MD Stuart Whitwell said: “Its strength is unbelievable and now it’s growing in China and the Far East too. Expect that to continue, with growth in price and volumes. One day, it’s going to be a challenger to Bacardi.” Success in the Far East hasn’t come easily, but is the result of a long-term effort that began in the 1990s. “The cachet of Cognac and Scotch really diminished the opportunity for other brown spirits,” says Whitwell, adding that a new interest in American whiskey has boosted the category’s fortunes.”

Sub category: US whiskey

Owner: Brown-Forman

Country: US

Total score: 42.6%

Change: 7%

Brand score: 78% 

Change: 9%

3. Bacardi

Bacardi is the first of three brands domainte the apex of our Power Brand standings. Yet to take off in Asia, the brand has nonetheless managed to continue volume growth thanks to a constant stream of innovation, with a focus on reinvigorating its appeal among younger consumers, despite its overall score slipping by 5%.

Sub category: Rum/cane

Owner: Bacardi Martini

Country: Cuba

Total score: 65.1%

Change: -5%

Brand score: 79% 

Change: -1%

2. Smirnoff

Smirnoff is a brand that, while continuing to grow, is increasingly under pressure in the US. Price reductions by Absolut and the continuing strong performance of value proposition Svedka as squeezing the world’s best-selling spirits brand by volume. Now Smirnoff is attempting to retain market share with discounting –­­ but that’s only part of the strategy for Diageo, which continues to maintain strong connections with music and a young demographic, making Smirnoff still the “safe bet” for vodka consumers the world over.

Sub category: Vodka

Owner: Diageo

Country: Russia

Total score: 89.1%

Change: 5%

Brand score: 77% 

Change: 4%

1. Johnnie Walker

The Diageo-owned blended Scotch colossus now has clear water between it and rivals such as stablemate Smirnoff and the mighty Bacardi, breaking through the 20m-case barrier for the first time in 2013 thanks to hugely impressive geographical spread. Not even the clampdown on extravagance in China could interrupt its progress.

Sub category: Blended Scotch

Owner: Diageo

Country: Scotland 

Total score: 97.0%

Change: 6%

Brand score: 85% 

Change: 2%

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