Stateways March April 2018

StateWays is the only magazine exclusively covering the control state system within the beverage alcohol industry, with annual updates from liquor control commissions and alcohol control boards and yearly fiscal reporting from control jurisdictions

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StateWays | | March/April 2018 39 Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. With an eight percent increase over the previous year, he's fi nding interest at the inexpensive mixto end steady while curiosity about the higher-end expressions is expand- ing, especially silver. Patron Silver 750-ml. was his tenth-best-selling SKU last year. "I defi nitely have seen growth in the category, powered by the premium and super-premium expressions," says Gonzo Mirich, owner of Jimbo's Liquors in Basalt, Colorado. "Tequila now is way more than Jose Cuervo and Hornitos, which used to be our big- gest-selling tequilas historically. But now brands like Casamigos are defi nitely getting bigger – it's in fact by volume and dollars our best seller, which tells you the tequila drinker is more refi ned now and looking for something new," he reports. As the reputation of the agave spirit improves, efforts by suppli- ers to further burnish the attraction continues, with everything from contemporary and stylish packaging to new products (especially those with longer aging). "We've always been a fairly good tequila account, even 15 years ago," says Mat Dinsmore, general manager at Wilbur's Total Bev- erage in Fort Collins, Colorado. "When we saw Bourbon and craft cocktails become the 'big thing' craze, tequila in some ways went onto the back burner. But we started to see resurgence, perhaps due to an over- lap with those whiskey drinkers, in that more age statements with broader fl avor profi les have been bringing some people to the category." Helping to drive growth, retailers say, is the female consumer. "The tequila drinker is defi - nitely becoming more refi ned and looking for some- thing new, and women are really getting into it - whether it's true or not, many people think it's a healthier spirit," Mirich says. Dinsmore agrees and says that's signifi cant in a store like his, where he estimates 60 percent or more shop- pers are female. "More and more women are calling for tequila. You saw that with Bourbon right before it sky- rocketed, and it shows it's not just an old boy's drink anymore. I see more women (and more young women) come in educated about the category, which I think is really cool." TEQUILA'S TRENDING Some retailers are specialists, of course, and they are the ones posi- tioned best to take advantage of the category's growth. Zak Romaya owns San Diego's Old Town Liquor, which boasts well over 1000 brands of tequila. He even imports his own brands and has an extensive online presence. Currently, he sees new con- sumers to the category discovering sweeter, richer expressions, es- pecially aged variants which are sweeter than traditional tequilas. "Some people will say, 'This isn't tequila, it's too manipulated,'" he says. "But I say to them, 'you can't tell people what to like,' and if it brings into the category the person who is now drinking rum or beer or whiskey, it's good for everyone from the farmers to the producers to us." He also sees the steady growth among pricey aged expressions, but says with so much brand churn, there are plenty of bargains for the savvy retailer to take advantage of. Much of the interest in the tequila business is in line extensions, Marberger says. "Take Roca Patron - for so long it was blanco, reposado and añejo from Patron and many other brands. But now they've come out with their upper marques, which have made a difference." He does point out that about 80 percent of the tequila he sells ends up in Margaritas, so the market for less expensive brands is still strong. Creations like Roca Patron, which differs from the original brand by using traditional ta- hona stone-ground agave, is one way to expand product interest. Organic brands, or certain barrel fi nishes (as Herradura releases annually) are others. And then there are the one-offs like El Tesoro 80th Anniversary Limited Edition, aged eight years and with only eight casks in existence. NEW TO THE PARTY But now there is also an emerging new tequila ex- pression, cristallino, which is a mix of various ages PHOTO CREDIT: ©ISTOCK.COM/BAIBAZ

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