May 1, 2012 at 4:18 PM ET
Skinnygirl cocktails -- the lower-cal brand of spirits founded by a Real Housewife of New York -- was the fastest growing brand of spirits in the US last year, posting a 388 percent sales increase according to a new booze industry report.
Skinnygirl was started by Bethenny Frankel in 2009. She was part of the cast Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York City” and “Bethanny Getting Married.” The brand has grown from a single offering – a premixed margarita -- to four lines of premixed cocktails with four flavored vodkas and three wines debuting nationally this month. It was acquired by liquor giant Beam in 2011.
The main selling point is the premixed cocktails are lower in calories than standard mixes. According to Technomic, the company moved 586,000 cases in 2011.
“The business last year dramatically overpeformed our expectations so that was a delight,” said Deb Boyda, mixables general manager at Beam.
The success is “sort of a triple play,” said Technomic's Donna Hood Crecca, “You have a product that was certainly on trend of being a lower calorie offering. It was backed by a celebrity that was coming on strong. And the liquid in the bottle itself is appealing, very female friendly. It’s also priced right.”
“Even the name, Skinnygirl, just works,” Crecca said. “When it got into Beam’s marketing, it just exploded.”
The brand, which billed itself as using “all-natural ingredients” suffered some bad news last September when Whole Foods stopped stocking the margarita because the grocer said it contained a preservative “that didn’t meet our quality standards,” the company told the New York Post at the time. Frankel called it a “non-event” in the report and it certainly didn’t hurt the brand.
Technomic, a food and beverage industry consulting group that compiled the report, found Americans were buying 3.5 percent more spirits in 2011. Liquor also accounted for more of American’s alcohol consumption, up 6.4 percent from 6.1 percent in 2010. Total volume sold was a frat-house-busting 199.8 million 9 liter cases.
The report also noted that liquor’s popularity grew at the expense of beer and America’s appetite for top shelf-booze was growing despite the wobbly economy.
“Even though you saw the slow recovery from the recession people would spend on alcohol. Among the upper-price tiered you saw a lot of growth. Especially in vodka,” Crecca said.